MANILA, Philippines—After sealing an agreement of cooperation with the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) on Monday, Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes insisted the move had nothing to do with the calls for his ouster.
And signatories to the accord said a leadership change in the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) would only slow down implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPer).
At the signing of the joint undertaking between the NAPC Farmers and Landless Rural Workers (FLRW) Council and the DAR at the Quezon Memorial Circle, both agencies said that identifying the obstacles to agrarian reform, as well as the areas of cooperation, would fast-track CARPer’s implementation.
De los Reyes said his agency could not on its own implement CARPer, where the farmers would be at the center of land distribution.
For his part, NAPC Chairman Joel Rocamora said the agreement came at a time pressure was stronger for the implementation of CARPer, stressing that farmers and the government would have to work together.
The Social Covenant on Fast Tracking Land Tenure Improvement-Land Acquisition and Distribution (LTI-LAD) 2013 and Beyond that they signed is estimated to deliver about 70 percent of the total LAD target of the DAR and is anticipated to benefit 300,000 farmers and facilitate the delivery of support services.
The covenant will cover 40 provinces and involve 25 farmer federations and their local affiliates.
The covenant is the result of a consensus drawn from CARPer assessments conducted in November last year by the NAPC-FLRW where a series of dialogues with the DAR identified areas of cooperation.
Asked if the covenant signing was deliberately timed with the bishops’ call for a revamp at the DAR, De los Reyes said, “This has nothing to do with the CBCP (Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines) because this has long been discussed by the NAPC and the farm workers. This is not in reaction to (that) or whatever.”
Roy Mahinay Sr., a representative of the NAPC-FLRW, said the assessment conducted prior to the signing of the covenant resulted in the identification of priority provinces where the backlogs on agrarian reform were high.
Mahinay said they were able to identify obstacles to the full implementation of CARPer, which include opposition from landowners, the ineptitude of local agrarian reform officials, the connivance between landowners and registers of deeds, and the slow land valuation process of the Land Bank of the Philippines.
In a statement, the NAPC-FLRW said: “Many secretaries have gone through the DAR but the problems have not been solved because they are not within the jurisdiction of the DAR secretary. The President should straighten this out and castigate erring officials under the other agencies.”
“Having new leadership at the DAR will not facilitate the completion of CARPer but will slow it down and hinder its completion,” the group said, explaining that a new secretary will have to study and do it all in one year and four months.—Jeannette I. Andrade