LUCENA CITY—The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) is set to distribute in early February land ownership certificates for 1,800 hectares of private lands in Quezon province’s Bondoc Peninsula, touted to be the biggest farm land for disposal under the Aquino administration, a leader of a nongovernment organization announced on Thursday.
Rebecca Lozada, project director of Building Bridges for Peace-Philippine Coalition for the International Criminal Court (BBP-PCICC), said the DAR has committed to distribute the lands, through the giving out of certificates of land ownership award (CLOAs) to farmer-tenants on Feb. 6 under the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.
Among these properties would be the 480-ha portion of Hacienda Villa Reyes that would be distributed to 276 farmers, she said.
“This is perhaps the biggest landholding distributed to date under the Aquino Administration,” Lozada said in a statement sent to the Inquirer on Thursday.
She said the 480-ha land represents less than half of the 1,124 ha of the Reyes properties in San Narciso and San Andres towns that had been issued with “notices of coverage.”
Since 2009, the BPP-PCICC has been actively promoting dialogues between tenants, landowners and the government to advance effective implementation of agrarian reform laws and respect for tenant rights.
Jansept Geronimo, campaign officer of Quezon Association of Rural Development and Democratization, affirmed that it was Agrarian Undersecretary Jose Grageda who first made the announcement during the first multi-stakeholders dialogue held in this city on Jan. 23.
He said the more than 60 farmer-leaders from Kilusang Magbubukid ng Bondoc Peninsula present in the dialogue received the news with “mixed excitement and skepticism.”
“The farmers were joyous and victorious because it was the fruit of a long and very hard struggle,” Geronimo said in a phone interview.
He said, however, that the farmers lamented that the properties to be distributed would only be a small part of the vast farmlands that should have long been distributed by the government.
Geronimo said their research showed more than 18,000 ha in the Peninsula covered by agrarian reform are undistributed.
Lozada, in a phone interview on Thursday, said BBP-PCICC hoped the distribution of the CLOAs to the Reyes farmers would be marked as the first step toward distribution of all remaining undistributed lands to farmer-beneficiaries.
She said the CLOA distribution on Feb. 6 would represent a “partial but significant victory of farmers whose long years of struggle to own the lands they till was marked by harassment and the criminalization of their land rights claims.”
Lozada noted that many of the identified CLOA recipients had been previously jailed because of the criminal cases filed against them by their landlords.
Geronimo said aside from Hacienda Reyes, the DAR land distribution program should include the undistributed lands from other contentious haciendas in the Bondoc Peninsula owned by the Matias, Uy, Zoleta, Tan and others.
Lozada said they would soon hold a conference to thresh out problems related to leasehold implementation and another meeting to address the pending arrest warrants for around 40 farmers and the cost of their bail bond amounting to over P2.5 million.
The agrarian reform program, was launched 25 years ago. It will end in June 2014.