Bukidnon tillers hope Aquino keeps vow to speed up land reformBy Ryan D. Rosauro
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines–Peasants in Bukidnon expressed guarded optimism over President Aquino’s recent pronouncements assuring landless tillers they will get the land due them.
Mr. Aquino, in a dialogue with farmers in Malacañang on Thursday, reiterated his government’s strong commitment to complete land redistribution as envisioned by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, which was launched over two decades ago by his mother, the late President Corazon Aquino, as the centerpiece of her social justice promise to ease widespread poverty and remove one of the major causes of a simmering communist insurgency.
“It was good to hear President Aquino finally talking at length about agrarian reform,” rice farmer Nelida Carbon, chair of Makabayang Alyansa ng Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Makabayan) in Bukidnon, told the INQUIRER by phone on Friday.
“For us who have waited to own the land we have tilled for so long now, we hope this assurance translates to an effective strategy to hasten CARP implementation,” Carbon added.
“DAR (Department of Agrarian Reform) should make the President’s words meaningful by radically improving its performance. Maghulat mi sa ilang lihok subay sa iyang gipanulti (We’ll just wait for him to act on his words),” she said.
Carbon, who has tilled a portion of the 2,900-hectare estate of the Bukidnon Farms Inc. in Don Carlos, Bukidnon since 1987, criticized the “lackluster performance” of DAR in implementing CARP.
She cited that in Bukidnon, some 55,000 hectares remain untouched by CARP from 1988 to 2010, and of this figure, only 3,571 hectares were placed under CARP coverage so far.
“If this is the rate of implementation, it will require around 15 years to finish the program in Bukidnon,” Carbon lamented.
CARP is set to expire in June 2014 unless another law mandates its extension.
Another black mark in CARP’s reputation, Carbon added, is the large number of beneficiaries who have legally become new landowners but have been prevented from possessing their lands by unyielding landlords.
Not to mention the threats on the lives of landless peasants struggling to fight for their rights, said Carbon whose colleague was killed in 2007.
According toDAR, some 4.2 million hectares of agricultural lands were already distributed to close to 2.5 million beneficiaries from 1987 to December 2010, and in 2011, 111,889 hectares were distributed to 63,755 beneficiaries.
DAR figures showed that some 961,974 hectares are still the subject for land acquisition and distribution (LAD) in the remaining two years of CARP.
DAR Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes has said that some 60 percent of the LAD balance is spread in 21 provinces.