The Filipino Farmer and the CARPERFebruary 5, 2010
by Nicole Sun, with Janier Cruz
We’ve all heard some snippet of hunger strikes and of marches all the way from Bukidnon to Malacañang, fighting for land ownership and protection. The cost of living rises every time we import rice to feed our families. Our hardworking farmers need all the help they can get. And so what is the government doing to save the day?
The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) was the initial program to empower the lives of agrarian reform beneficiaries through equal distribution and ownership of land, and to provide support services for farms and sound rural development for Philippine agriculture. It was steadily failing, and to close down the CARP would mean 1.2 million hectares of land undistributed. People were campaigning for the extension and reform of the existing law. Consequently, the campaigning and lobbying paid off as the legislators enacted what the people have been clamoring for. The CARP Extension with Reforms (CARPER) was passed into law which is also known as Republic Act No. 9700 (RA 9700) on August 7, 2008.
It’s no wonder why farmers protest and make a big fuss out of the old provisions – a lot of the land parcels in the country were wrongly exempted from CARP coverage and were used for other functions. The CARPER funds are used to acquire the lands back and to distribute them justly, while at the same time providing support for poor farmers who have otherwise no access to services. After almost three years of lobbying and of taking it to the streets by landless farmers, including hunger strikes and long marches across the country, reforms have been put in place. Among the important reforms include:
- Creation of a Joint Congressional Oversight Committee to oversee the implementation of the law
- Clear Policy against Land Conversion of Irrigated and Irrigable Lands from agriculture to other uses
- Gender-Sensitive Agrarian Reform
- Phasing Schedule of Land Acquisition and Distribution (LAD) to ensure completion by June 14, 2014
- No more Voluntary Land Transfer (VLT) after June 30, 200
- Empowerment and Organization of Farmer Beneficiaries
- Individual Award of Titles to Farmers
- Installation of Farmer Beneficiaries
- Indefeasibility of all Agrarian Reform Titles
- Recognition of farmer’s legal standing in all courts and legal bodies
- Improved Budget for Support Services, More Access to Socialized Credit, Subsidies to New Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries
- Additional Prohibited Acts on Circumvention of CARP Implementation
The year 2010 proved to be a great start for the CARPER as Secretary Nasser C. Pangandaman directed the full implementation of the CARPER during the CY 2009 National Year-End Assessment and Planning Conference for CY 2010. He noted that the Department of Agrarian Reform needs 200,000 hectares of land as Land Acquisition and Distribution target for the year. Moreover, he is confident that this can be reached because of the increase in budget given to the department by the Congress.
Ah, but the ever touchy subject it is, the CARPER is still subject to much scrutiny and criticism because of the surrounding issues regarding the Cojuangco family and the Hacienda Luisita controversy. We all know what happened way back then when agrarian reform was formally initiated. Hacienda Luisita is exempted from the CARPER, saving it from having to redistribute the land occupied and cultivated by its tenants and workers. Congresswoman Rissa Hontiveros shares that the stock option applied in the case of Hacienda Luisita when the first version of CARP was made is now patently illegal in the framework of the new CARPER law. Such provision makes the circumstances pertaining to this vast expanse of land held by the Cojuangco family a serious moral blight.
And so you can’t really blame some members of the electorate having their own reservations about electing Noynoy Aquino as president because of all the controversies and scandal that beleaguer the family he belongs to. There is actually evidence showing Aquino’s ownership share to be miniscule. To be fair, the candidate himself has offered to give up his stake at Hacienda Luisita. But if this were illegal though, why hasn’t Aquino, even his mother, condemned it? Shouldn’t he command his family to finally redistribute the land? Yet more unanswered questions left in the air.
Agrarian reform is an issue that cannot be straightforwardly addressed by those responsible. Nevertheless, nobody can solidly blame the government for at least trying to be consistent in enacting laws to make the CARPER work this time around. An ever-touchy subject, most think the CARPER is just as bad as the CARP, maybe even worse. Be the judge. Through CARP, 4.5 million farmers have full control of 7.2 million hectares of agricultural land. There are 4.5 million Filipinos whose lives are better by owning the land they till. Imagine what the CARPER can do if the necessary reforms are actually pushed for and properly implemented! But the again, let’s not forget about the massacre that happened at the Hacienda’s gates. Check Good Job Gov back to see if and when more updates are made available with regard to this matter!