Land in four big haciendas in Negros Occidental province covering almost 500 hectares has been distributed to 270 sugar farmers under the country’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), officials of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) said on Friday.
In a news release, DAR said it had finished installing the farmers in the four sugar estates in the cities of Cadiz and Sagay in Negros Occidental.
The biggest landholding distributed to farmers was that of Hacienda Cana-an in Barangay Mabini, Cadiz City, with a total area of 386.85 hectares, of which 352 hectares were covered by CARP. The rest of the land was composed of the retention area for the landowner, as well as roads and eroded portions excluded from agrarian reform.
Five hectares max
Under the law, a landowner may retain only a maximum five hectares of land.
The three other estates portioned out to farmers were Hacienda Vicente, with 26.7 hectares distributed, Hacienda Susan, with 37.7 hectares, and the 50-hectare Hacienda Rosemarie, all in Sagay City.
DAR Assistant Secretary for Field Operations Teofilo Inocencio, who flew in from Manila to supervise the two-day installation event, explained that the activities were meant to assist agrarian reform beneficiaries in identifying and occupying their CARP-awarded lands.
“In most parts of the country, the beneficiaries given certificates of land ownership awards (CLOAs) assume possession of the land without the need of installation. We only resort to installation to prevent the possible outbreak of violence as a result of the land distribution,” Inocencio said.
“In some areas, tension is still high between previous landowners and beneficiaries. In other areas, the tension comes from different farmers’ groups that have conflicting claims on individual farm lots,” he added.
Unlike rice lands where tenants occupy specific farm lots, Inocencio said that farm workers in haciendas have no permanent farm lots to claim as their own.
“We (also) embark on installation activities to help farm workers identify the specific farm lots that they will now own,” the DAR official said.
In its news release, the DAR described the new landowners as erupting in cheers and shedding tears of joy when they were escorted by DAR officials and employees to the apportioned haciendas on Monday and Tuesday to identify their individual farm lots.
The two-day installation event turned into a “fiesta,” the DAR release said, as the farm workers celebrated their transformation into land owners by butchering pigs and chickens and serving them as simple meals shared by the community.
The DAR said it was seeking to distribute all CARP-covered lands before President Aquino’s term ends in 2016.
As of January, there were still 93,000 landholdings covering 870,000 hectares that remained undistributed. Of this number, more than 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 are considered retention areas for landowners.
According to DAR, the remaining 694,181 hectares are targeted to be distributed to agrarian reform beneficiaries within the next three and a half years under the following schedule: 160,000 hectares in 2013; 240,707 hectares in 2014; 180,707 hectares in 2015, and 112,767 from January to June 2016.