MANILA—Four haciendas in Negros Occidental are now in the hands of 270 sugar farmers following the acquisition and distribution of the landholdings under the agrarian reform program, officials said Friday.
The Department of Agrarian Reform said it has finished installing the farm workers on the four sugar estates involving a total of almost 500 hectares in the cities of Cadiz and Sagay under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
The new landowners erupted in cheers, some shedding tears of joy, when DAR officials and employees escorted them to the haciendas on Monday and Tuesday to identify their individual farm lots, the DAR said in a news release.
The two-day event turned into a “fiesta” as the farm workers butchered pigs and chickens to celebrate their transformation into land owners, the DAR said.
The biggest landholding was Hacienda Cana-an in Barangay Mabini, Cadiz City, with a total area of 386.85 hectares, of which 352 hectares were parcelled out to the beneficiaries after the segregation of the retention area of the landowner, and the exclusion of roads and eroded portions.
The three other estates, in Sagay City, are Hacienda Vicente, with 26.7 hectares distributed, Hacienda Susan, with 37.7 hectares, and the 50-hectare Hacienda Rosemarie.
Agrarian Reform Assistant Secretary for Field Operations Teofilo Inocencio, who flew from Manila to supervise the installation, credited its success to the close coordination between farmers’ organizations and DAR personnel in Negros Occidental.
“We hope this level of cooperation among stakeholders in the agrarian reform program will help fast-track CARP implementation in Negros Occidental and (be) replicated in other parts of the country,” Inocencio said.
He explained that installation activities were meant to assist agrarian reform beneficiaries in identifying and occupying their CARP-awarded lands.
The DAR is seeking to distribute all CARP-covered land before President Aquino’s term ends in 2016.
As of January, there were still 93,000 landholdings involving 870,000 hectares up for distribution. Of this number, 15,558 landholdings covering a gross area of more than 162,000 hectares have been tagged as “problematic” due to pending cases or technical problems.
An estimated 175,000 hectares of land will be retained by the previous landowners. Under the law, a landowner may retain a maximum five hectares of land.
According to the DAR, the remaining 695,000 hectares will be distributed to agrarian reform beneficiaries as follows: 160,000 hectares (2013); 240,707 hectares (2014); 180,707 hectares (2015); and 112,767 (January to June 2016).