MANILA, Philippines – For poor farmers who still don't own the land they till, time is of the essence since the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPer) will expire in just 2 years.
Task Force Mapalad (TFM), a non-government organization assisting small farmers, fears that the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) will fail its mandate because of its slow-paced action in implementing the Land Acquisition and Distribution (LAD) under the CARPer.
“The DAR’s failure to efficiently pursue its LAD function for several years caused a huge backlog of 1,093,000 hectares of agricultural lands as of January 2012. Ninety-four percent of this backlog is privately owned [land]. More than 33% are lands 24 hectares and bigger. In 2011, only 54.6% of the 200,000-hectare national target has been achieved,” TFM said in a statement.
To put pressure on the Aquino government to complete LAD, hundreds of farm workers from haciendas in the provinces of Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Batangas, Bukidnon, Davao Oriental, Davao City and Davao del Sur are now making their way to Manila in a 10-day journey dubbed “Farmer’s March for CARPer Completion”.
The farmers from Mindanao will be arriving in Manila via boat at the North Harbor on Thursday afternoon. They will then march to San Carlos Seminary in Makati and converge with the Negros and Luzon farmers also on Thursday afternoon.
On June 8, the farmers will march together to personally bring their case to Malacañang. The group’s demand is for President Aquino to compel DAR to hasten the land distribution under the CARP program.
TFM said that there are 30,232 hectares of land to be distributed in Bukidnon and 6,185 hectares in Davao Oriental.
TFM on Tuesday criticized DAR Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes, who told media that the situation in Negros Occidental is more complicated than that of Hacienda Luisita.
“The fact is, De los Reyes has been hiding all these weeks, preferring to let his underlings do the talking and repeat the same promises made two years ago,” said TFM Negros President Alberto Jayme.
Jayme said DAR has been “systematically slashing its LAD target in Negros Occidental, from a high of 58,000 hectares for this year, then down to 32,000 hectares, which DAR said was a “manageable figure.”
“De los Reyes was quibbling when he insisted the backlog in Negros was 120,000 hectares and not 135,000 hectares. The fact is, from 2010 to 2011, DAR was able to distribute only 1,798 hectares, a figure a mile removed from its annual accomplishment target, and this means that his backlog is accumulating,” said Jayme.
Palace to meet farmers
On Tuesday, Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Malacanang will meet with leaders and representatives of the TFM.
“We are going to meet with them. We are more than glad to meet with them,” he said.
President Aquino won’t be able to attend the dialogue on Friday since he will still be in his official trip to the United States.