Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Editorial by Ernesto T. Solidum

Sloppy Agrarian Reform
 Implementation Fails The Filipinos

The weekly Kapihan on July 4, 2015 featured the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP). The occasion marked the 27th CARP and 8th Carper anniversary, a centerpiece program of the late Pres. Corazon C. Aquino. RA 6657 known as the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988 expanded coverage to all types of agricultural lands regardless of crops and tenurial arrangement.

DAR staff members include: Ms. Teresa C. Valencia, OIC PARPO II, Valentino B. Magante PARPO I, Ernesto T. Anino, Chief PBO Division, Joselito N, Inguin, Chief LTI Division, Teresita Grace Quimpo, DAR and MAROs_Melpa O. Madriaga, Efren A. Rebustes, Eufrosino R. Ratay and Marissa O. Mendoza. Lone guest from LBP is Ms. Vina Ong Quimpo.

Agrarian reform in the province of Aklan started in 1974 when the entire country was declared by Pres. Ferdinand Marcos as land reform area pursuant to PD 27. The early emphasis of the program was Operation Land Transfer, tenurial improvement and leasehold arrangement. This was subsequently followed by issuance of Presidential Decrees, Executive Orders especially Nos. 227, 2228 and 129-A, RA 9700 (CARPER) has been fully implemented by DAR Aklan to realize the vision where there is equitable land ownership and empowered agrarian reform beneficiaries.

Key program components are: a) Land tenure improvement which seeks to improve the tenurial status of the farmers and farm workers of the land they till. As of June 30, 2015, DAR Report stated; out of 23, 773 hectares. The working scope accomplishment is 93 per cent involving 23, 320 farmer beneficiaries; b) Agrarian justice has two features: the Agrarian legal assistance and adjudication of cases. With legal assistance, 90 cases were received and all resolved. In adjudication, there were 4, 230 cases received and accomplishment of 99 per cent, and c) Program beneficiaries development- is the support services mainly technical, financial and infra to power agrarian reform beneficiaries.

Presently, there are 15 Agrarian Reform Communities (ARC’s) organized in 14 municipalities that include 5, 002 households. Completed farm to market roads (FMR) has a total length of 103.4 kms. costing P213.9 million. There are 11 completed irrigation projects with 1,918.3 has  service area costing P80.4 million. Four bridges have been completed with length of 131.8 linear meters which cost P7.86 million. Foreign assisted projects particularly by Asian Development Bank and Japan International Cooperation Agency totaled 210 projects at a cost of P304.3 million.

Leonera Mameng and Mr. Casidsid, Chairman and Vice Chairman respectively of Malay ARC wholeheartedly endorsed the program being a beneficiary of P14 million FMR, a bridge, and post harvest facility. Their cooperative is engaged in a P3 million piggery project funded by LBP. In the planning stage is a soft broom project that would enhance family income of members.

Ms. Quimpo said that LBP is implementing Sikat Saka targeting members of Irrigaters Association under the Food Staples Sufficiency Program. Individual production loan is P37, 000 per hectare for inbred and P42, 000 for hybrid. The interest rate is 15 per cent per annum, crop assurance payable by Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. The requirements are application form, 1 x 1 ID picture, endorsement of NIA, approved farm plan and budget, attendance in Credit Worthiness Seminar and Purchase Order from NFA.

In the 1970’s DAR had a concept of economic family size farm where a farmer beneficiary could effectively plan, manage and produce enough for a family of 5 members. The area determined was 3.0 hectares where farming system could be integrated or diversified. More or less the farmer or fisher folk has the capability to adopt modern farming practices on sustainable basis and acquire small farm equipments like turtle power tiller, rice thresher, and irrigation pump.

With the implementation of CARP, the above program or concept was scrapped and replaced by ill defined objective that farmers owning less than 3.0 hectares can be emancipated from poverty and want. DAR with serious budgetary constraints could not provide technical and financial support services to its millions of clienteles.

Practically handing a Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) to a beneficiary covering 0.8 hectare is a sure formula for failure and perpetual poverty. This is the reason why two-thirds of our farming population in the Philippines is in poverty simply because farms are heavily fragmented. In Ibajay where 2 ARC’s exist, the average beneficiary has only 0.5 hectare. to cultivate. Evidently DAR has made a mockery of the Filipino dream.

Family Income and Expenditures Survey conducted by PSA show that only 35 per cent of families fall below the poverty line. However, ARC’s have 54 per cent of households below the poverty line. Reason: essential support services like livelihood, portable water power, school, health center, post harvest facility, irrigation and FMR are nowhere to be found.

In developed economies like Japan, South Korean and Taiwan, farmers with managerial expertise need at least 1.5 ha. to become stable and prosperous. Those with less area available had to lease or integrate the land with other active practicing farmers. The process is called land consolidation and proven very successful in raising living standard in rural areas.

Farms engage in sugar cane, rubber, palm oil, cassava, coffee, cacao, bananas and pineapple production must be allowed to expand in order to achieve economies of scale. Fragmenting farms results only to underproduction and huge overhead expenses. Result: importation of sugar from Australia, Thailand or Cuba where their prices are much lower than ours.  What a mess we have created in our sloppy handling of agrarian reform. Instead of progression we reap retrogression.

Dr. Raul V. Fabella of UP School of Economics and also National Scientist recommends that more productive farms should now be allowed legally to own and cultivate 10.0 has. or more as market efficiency dictates. Agrarian reform should rather be short-2 years instead of 3 decades and limited only to rice and corn.

Presently our farmers are aging and sickly at 57 years old, Grade IV and deeply mired in poverty. Youth aren’t interested in farming for reasons stated above. Who will take up the cudgels of providing food for our hungry mouths? We demand answers from our elected officials, concerned agencies and NGO’s. /MP

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