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CARP ‘total failure,’ say Negros lawmakers, industry execs

By: - Correspondent / @carlagomezINQ
/ 03:16 AM March 11, 2015
A farm worker carries harvested sugarcane at Hacienda Luisita.  E.I. REYMOND OREJAS/ INQUIRER

A farm worker carries harvested sugarcane at Hacienda Luisita. E.I. REYMOND OREJAS/ INQUIRER

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines—Several lawmakers and sugar industry leaders have cited the lack of support services to farmer-beneficiaries as major reason for the failure of the land reform program to improve the lives of the poorest of the poor.

They claimed that the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), whose implementation has been extended twice by Congress, was a total failure, and thus should be scrapped.

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“The law has been there for decades and yet the beneficiaries are still considered the poorest of the poor because it is not enough to only give land to the landless,” Rep. Jeffrey Ferrer of Negros Occidental’s fourth district said in an interview on Monday.

Ferrer made it clear that he was against the extension of CARP.

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“We also have to give them support services for their land to be more productive, something that CARP has miserably failed to do over the years,” he added.

Ferrer said what was needed to be done now “is to focus on support services to the already identified, covered and distributed land and ensure they become more productive, which would uplift the lives of the beneficiaries.”

A Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) official denied the agency had made a list of 44 members of Congress opposed to House Bill No. 4296 that would extend the 27-year-old CARP for another two years.

Show the basis

It only came up with a list of those who would possibly oppose the bill, DAR Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Luis Meinrado Pañgulayan said in a statement.

Rep. Alfredo Abelardo Benitez (Negros Occidental, third district) said the DAR should produce the list and show its basis.

“I’m not even a member of the agrarian reform committee and have not voted on the matter,” he said.

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Benitez earlier said the DAR should convince him that the CARP was a success for him to agree to extend it. “We want to know if the program has succeeded or failed because why should we extend a failing program?” he said.

Existing agrarian reform beneficiaries should be provided support mechanisms and capability-building to effectively manage farms, Benitez said.

Sugar industry leaders said they agreed with Benitez’s position.

Manuel Lamata, president of United Sugar Producers Federation of the Philippines, said: “We in Unifed back the call of Congressman Benitez to prove first that CARP has succeeded. Our members know it is a total failure. The money should be spent helping farm beneficiaries acquire tractors, implements and fertilizers rather than extending a failed program.”

He said the legislators should scrap CARP.

Government should instead focus on the rehabilitation of the sugar industry and prepare it to face the open market against the highly subsidized industries in Asia, he said.

6 million dependents

“Government should act now for the survival of the six million dependents of the sugar industry,” he said.

Rafael Coscolluela, president of the Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations, said he agreed with Benitez.

“I share his position but beyond that, every effort must be exerted to make the existing ARBs (agrarian reform beneficiaries) successful and Philippine agriculture more productive. That includes the support that the Sugar Act can provide, the block farming program and another law that will make CARPer lands bankable,” he said.

From exporter to importer

Enrique Rojas, president of the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters, said: “We commend him (Benitez) for his wisdom and courage in taking the right stand on the CARP issue. Almost three decades of CARP implementation has stunted the growth of agriculture in our country.”

Rojas added: “From an agricultural exporter, the Philippines has become a net importer of agricultural products. CARP has not improved the lives of agrarian reform beneficiaries because support services were lacking.”

“Government should focus more on extending support services to existing ARBs, instead of further fragmentalizing productive agricultural lands,” Rojas added.

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TAGS: agrarian reform, CARP, CARP failure, Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, Jeffrey Ferrer, Land Reform, lawmakers
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