INQUIRER EDITORIAL: HOPE (AGAINST HOPE) FOR FARMERS

[PHOTO -Cory's agrarian reform has been denounced as bogus, with farmers and peasants still unable to own land. To this day, her own family has resisted the government's effort to put their sugar estate under land reform. (Photo from bulatlat.com)]

MANILA, JUNE 19, 2012 (INQUIRER) President Aquino has vowed to fully implement his mother’s 24-year-old Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) in two years.

He had earlier met with farmer leaders and Catholic bishops for two hours in Malacañang. Farmers, many of whom had marched from the Visayas and Mindanao, were in Manila seeking the full implementation of land reform. Apparently the meeting so impressed the farmers and the bishops that they called off their hunger strike.

The farmers were “very happy,” said Christian Monsod, legal counsel of the farmers. “He (the President) opened new doors.”

Launched in 1988 by the late President Corazon Aquino as the centerpiece of her social justice program, CARP was extended for another five years in 2009 with a total allocation of P150 billion. It is now called CARP Extension with Reforms (Carper).

With Carper set to expire on June 30, 2014, the government is now scrambling to fully implement it. How to meet the deadline will depend on what “doors” to open in order to substantially implement the law and on government’s willingness to see the measures through.

For openers, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said that the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Department of Interior and Local Government, and the Philippine National Police would be mobilized for the distribution of 1 million hectares of land, comprising some of the country’s prime agricultural estates yet to be covered by CARP and has directed them to ensure “the peaceful and orderly installation of farmer-beneficiaries of all lands under the program.”

The priority, the spokesperson further said, would be landholdings 25 hectares and above. For these lands, notices of coverage will be issued on or before the end of 2012, he added. Land under 10 hectares will be issued notices of coverage by July 2013.

It appears the targets are practical and sound. By putting all the lands in question under notice of coverage, government will ensure the implementation of Carper beyond 2014.

But Lacierda is mum on how to energize the Department of Agrarian Reform to meet the government’s self-imposed targets.

The farmers and the bishops have after all deplored in a letter to Malacañang that the DAR has been “consistently underperforming.” Moreover, it’s only now, three years after Carper was passed, that government is coming around to really implementing it.

Lacierda said that the government would “now start” allocating P30 billion every year, which is what the five-year extension law sets. The Aquino administration set aside P16.37 billion for 2011 and P17.9 billion for 2012. By the budgets alone, it could be gleaned that government has been falling short of the Carper mandate.

The tale of the tape says the Carper deadline wouldn’t be fully met in two years.

Still, we hope against hope that it would be.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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