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Landowners find unlikely allies vs CARP extension

/ 05:51 AM March 06, 2015

MANILA, Philippines–Landowners are finding an unlikely ally in the group of militant party-list members in the House of Representatives who, like them, are opposed to extending the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

The House of Representatives is debating on House Bill (HB) No. 4296, which would extend the authority of the Department of Agrarian Reform to issue notices of coverage and provide adequate funding for support services to agricultural landholdings not yet covered by CARP.

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But the measure to extend CARP’s life, which was recently endorsed by 81 bishops, is having a rough sailing in the House.

Wealthy lawmakers from the landowning Negros bloc have been blamed for the delay in approving HB 4296, and militants from the Makabayan bloc are apparently in agreement with them.

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But Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap stressed that the Makabayan was on the same side as the Visayan bloc on HB 4296, but for different reasons.

The Visayan bloc wants to end CARP while Makabayan wants the CARP to be replaced by a more radical form of agrarian reform.

The Makabayan bloc is pushing for an alternative House Bill No. 252, or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB), which proposes free land distribution to poor farmers and the nationalization of agricultural lands. However, the bill is deemed to be too radical because it espouses the virtual confiscation of landholdings without any compensation being given to the landowners.

“Only black magic could revive the already dead CARP. We hope that there is no magician in the Congress. Let us move on, CARP is dead, a new law for agrarian reform is needed and GARB is for the welfare of poor farmers,” said Hicap.

He said the Makabayan bloc would go to the Supreme Court if the House succeeds in railroading HB 4296.

Hicap said Malacañang was using the CARP extension to offset the adverse public opinion against President Aquino whose popularity had taken a big hit from his unexplained role in the Mamasapano massacre of 44 Special Action Force commandos.

He said Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio Delos Reyes was lying when he claimed that 50,000 additional farmer-beneficiaries would become new owners of land under the extended CARP.

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TAGS: agrarian reform, CARP extension, Congress, Fernando Hicap, House bill, Landowners, Makabayan
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