MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Congress is set to deliberate next month the proposed extension of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
The CARP is to end in December, but there are proposals to prolong its life so it can undertake more land tenure improvement. The passage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL), Republic Act 6655, in 1988 was hailed as a historic occasion.
CARL promised to redistribute agricultural lands -- in several phases -- to those who actually till them.
It undertakes land tenure improvement, development of program beneficiaries, and the delivery of agrarian justice. DAR conducts land survey in resettlement areas. It undertakes land acquisition and distribution and land management studies.
The DAR also orchestrates the delivery of support services to farmer-beneficiaries and promotes the development of viable agrarian reform communities.
Most of the government funding for CARP came from the recovered P50-billion of the so-called Marcos' ill-gotten wealth; however, only P10 billion was allocated to the DAR, the rest of the money was distributed to other agencies, including P8-million for human rights victims under then President Ferdinand Marcos.
Belgium, Spain and Japan among the countries that are supporting the CARPSome 7 million hectares of agricultural lands, from more than four millions all over the country, have already been distributed. More than four million farmers benefited from the CARP, according to the Department of Agrarian Reform.
House Speaker Prospero Nograles also confirmed that Congress will tackle the extension of the CARP on Nov. 9.
Nograles last month called for the consolidation of all the needed amendments before the CARP law expires. He requested congressmen to submit their amendments so it can be consolidated in the plenary and ensure that the agrarian reform law would truly improve the country’s food productivity.
“I am concerned because proposals are coming only in trickles. We only have three months left and we need to finalize all the substantive amendments to perfect the extension measure,” Nograles said.
“We don’t want to end up cramming and rushing again just to beat the December deadline. What I want is for us to have a CARP extension law that is acceptable to everyone before December 31,” he said.
Nograles said the Department of Agrarian Reform, which administers the CARP, needs funding for such program extension.
“DAR is asking for their budget, but if we cannot pass the extension law for the simple reason that we still cannot find a win-win solution for the impasse on CARP, then we will be providing appropriations for a program that will cease to exist on December 31. Our country needs this CARP, especially now that our thrust is food productivity,” he said. ”We will surely find time for this very important piece of legislation.”
However, Nograles said the CARP extension should not just be about distributing lands to the landless farmers, but it should also assure beneficiaries enough government support to make their lands productive.
“We cannot afford to let the country’s agrarian reform program to fail and just go to waste,” Nograles said, adding “we have to correct or redirect the programs under the present CARP law as demanded by current situations.”
The status of the proposed extension of the CARP law under House Bill No. 4077 is still open to amendments as the bill has yet to hurdle plenary interpellation. Both the antis and proponents of the measure are expected to contribute their inputs during the plenary period of amendments.
The plenary has already formed a committee that will receive and collate all amending proposals from stakeholders through their respective representatives.
“We have yet to receive the various proposals so they can be consolidated by the House Committee on Agrarian Reform chaired by Apayao Rep. Elias Bulut, Jr.,” Nograles said.
Nograles emphasized that the agrarian reform law must be compatible with the government efforts in attaining food security through the maximized use of all agricultural lands.
“The distribution of lands to tiller-farmers must not equate to loss of agricultural productivity through mismanagement,” Nograles stressed, adding that agrarian reform must be just and equitable, both to the farmer-beneficiaries and landowners. (With a report from Romy Bwaga)