MANILA, Philippines – Agrarian reform policies in the past has benefited some of Filipino farmers all over the country. In one part, this is a success worth celebrating – seeing lives of formerly landless farmers transformed through the hope of owning the land they worked on for most of their lives.
However, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program’s promise of a better future for farmer families did not translate to reality for some of the farmers that should have been covered by the land distribution program.
The Agrarian Reform department reported in 2015 that it has distributed 4.72 million hectares of land to 2.8 agrarian reform beneficiaries. More than 600,000 hectares, however, remained undistributed.
With this, measures of extending DAR’s mandate of issuing Notices of Coverage, or the first step in processing final transfer of ownership to farmer beneficiaries, be extended so that all lands under the agrarian reform program be distributed to rightful beneficiaries.
In the House of Representatives, House Bills 114 and 3051 are filed to answer to this goal. You may read said bills below:
The Department of Agrarian Reform commented on said bills as follows:
“It is, therefore, not enough that the Department is given additional period to issue notices of coverage or compulsory acquisition of agricultural lands. CARPER failed. And, with due respect, the Department would not allow that history will repeat itself.”
“Thus, while the Department expresses its utmost gratitude to Committee on Agrarian Reform of the House of Representatives and the proponents of the two bills – House Bill No. 114 which was introduced by Rep. Teddy BrawnerBaguilat and House Bill No. 3051 which was introduced by Rep. Kaka Bag-ao, Rep. Gabriel Bordado and Rep. TomasitoVillarin – in proposing for the grant of a new authority to the Department to issue Notices of Coverage and to accept voluntary offers of lands by the landowners for two (2) years, we submit, with due respect, that the same is not enough.”
“It is necessary that the Department supports measures that would ensure acquisition of additional lands, both public and private, for free distribution to the farmers. The law must also ensure their installation to those lands, protect their security of tenure, and ensure the improvement of land production and their well-beings. The law must also help ensure and contribute to the attainment of food security, rural development, and over-all progress of the nation.”
“In the same vein, the law should provide corrective measures to the problems and concerns relative to the 4,726,604 hectares that had been supposedly acquired and distributed to 2,770,644 agrarian reform beneficiaries. The law must review the exemption and exclusion of vast tracts of agricultural lands by CARP and CARPER and if still possible place them under agrarian reform coverage. The measure should also address the gradual decrease of agricultural lands due to land use conversion, both legal and illegal.”
DAR instead proposes to support House Bill No. 555 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Act of 2016. The department’s comments continue as follows:
“H.B. No. 555 would also rectify the problems encountered and presently faced by the agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs). Those problems, include, among others the non-installation of ARBs to the awarded lands; the failure of the ARBs to pay land amortization with the Land Bank of the Philippines; the cancellation of Emancipation Patents and Certificates of Land Ownership Awards (CLOA); the transfer of awarded lands to third persons; the eviction of farmers from the retained landholdings of the landowner; the conversion of agricultural lands into other uses thereby threatening the country’s food security and self-sufficiency. H.B. No. 555 would also invalidate the exemptions and exclusions of those lands previously exempted or excluded from agrarian reform coverage especially those cases under DOJ Opinion 44. H.B. No. 555 would also ensure that the farmers are not evicted from agricultural land they are tilling regardless whether they are ARBs, leaseholders, or plain possessors or occupants of agricultural lands.”
“Most importantly, H.B. No. 555 would implement the free distribution of agricultural lands in favor of the farmers and at the same time would respect the rights of the landowners to due process and just compensation. Given the fact that ARBs could hardly pay land amortizations which would result to foreclosure of mortgage by Land Bank of the Philippines, it is now high time to free the farmers from the burden of paying any amortization. The farmers can use the payment for the amortization into making their agricultural lands productive.”
You may view House Bill No. 555 below:View Fullscreen
Meanwhile, in the Senate, two bills on NOCs were filed (Senate Bill No. 28 by Sen. Gringo Honasan and Senate Bill No. 1056 by Sen. RisaHontiveros), but the Senate Agrarian Reform Committee has yet to schedule deliberation for said bills.
Note: The #AgriFYI series is made with content support from the Asian NGO Coalition for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development at http://angoc.org/ and the International Land Coalition-Philippines at http://ilc-nes.ph/. You may check out their social media accounts at https://www.facebook.com/AsianNGOCoalition/ and https://twitter.com/ANGOCorg.