LONDON—President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday said he was committed to the full implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
“We are committed to completing it as envisioned by the CARP law,” Mr. Aquino said in a briefing with reporters at the close of his three-day official visit to the United Kingdom where he met with Prime Minister David Cameron.
The President said he was open to holding a dialogue with bishops and farmers who have petitioned such a meeting with him.
“Of course, that’s the whole point,” Mr. Aquino said when asked if he was open to a meeting with the agrarian reform advocates.
The President said he had asked Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes to hold a preliminary meeting with the bishops while he was still out of the country.
“They will meet the concerned bishop or bishops before I get back and present to me a list of doables already. So by the time we get to meet the bishops we can commit specific actions and specific time frames. So even if I’m away, that’s being addressed,” he said.
The bishops sent the President a letter on June 1 seeking a dialogue and his commitment to the completion of agrarian reform before it expires in two years.
“I’m not avoiding them,” Mr. Aquino said. “It’s just that I’m here and they’re there, and I first heard about it while I’m right here. They could have talked to me before I left.”
The President is expected to return to Manila on June 10 after a three-day visit to the United States.
Mr. Aquino sought to dispel speculations that he was not keen on agrarian reform because of Hacienda Luisita, the sprawling sugar plantation owned by his family.
The President said he was committed to the full implementation of what is now called the Carper law—CARP Extension with Reforms.
“From the start, we were bent on completing (the distribution of land). That was actually the first thing I discussed with Secretary De los Reyes,” he said.
The President said that after several extensions, Congress might not be amenable to further extensions of the Carper law, which expires in 2014.
“So my instructions to him (De los Reyes) were that this should be completed within the time allotted to us because it will be very difficult to get a further extension. And he has been focused on that,” he said.
The President said De los Reyes had been talking to various stakeholders “to describe precisely where we are at this point” and what could be done to accelerate the land distribution.
“But he was also sharing with us that there are certain segments there will be some difficulties with. And they envision a lot of court cases being filed,” he said.
In Manila, De los Reyes said in a statement that all notices for coverage would be issued before Carper expires in 2014. He said this would ensure that all lands up for distribution would be turned over to the farmers before Mr. Aquino’s term ended in 2016.
Mass processing in all provinces
The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) he said, was undertaking a mass processing of claim folders in all provinces, adding that this was a first in the DAR.
De los Reyes said this would allow global solutions to problems with land acquisition and distribution, and come up with specific measures for special cases.
The remaining land acquisition and distribution balance of 961,974 hectares will be covered by the guidelines set under the extended CARP law, De los Reyes said.
He also said the DAR was still on schedule in acquiring and distributing lands even though the remaining properties for distribution are the contentious ones that would take time to resolve. With a report from Leila B. Salaverria in Manila
With a report from Leila B. Salaverria in Manila
Originally posted at 09:42 am | Thursday, June 07, 2012