PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — Farmers themselves are to blame for the failure of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, members of the Senate committee on agrarian reform said yesterday.
During a public hearing in the proposed extension of CARP, Senators Rodolfo Biazon and Juan Miguel Zubiri criticized farmers who lost interest in tilling the lands granted to them under CARP by selling these properties, a practice which reduced land reform to a farce.
Biazon cited the case of several land reform beneficiaries in Mexico, Pampanga, who, two years after acquiring their certificate land ownerships, collectively sold 350 hectares of their farmlands to a private developer of a housing subdivision. He presented to the committee duplicate copies of the Torrens titles of the CARP-covered lands that were sold.
Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri said that about 3,000 hectares of agricultural lands owned by his family in Bukidnon were parceled out and distributed to tenant-farmers have changed ownerships through selling and reselling in flagrant violations of the CARP law.
“We do not know anymore who own these parcels of lands the legal titles of which are not supposed to be transferred to others except to the family members of the farmer-beneficiaries,” Zubiri said.
Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman did not deny that the illegal sale and transfer of titles of these lands was rampant due to poor monitoring of his department, especially during the early stage of the agrarian program.
The Agrarian Reform Department has recommended a l0-year extension of CARP and allocation of an additional Pl60 billion budget to complete the distribution of lands.
Senator Juan Ponce Enrile said that he will not object to the extension of CARP as long as this will not entail land acquisition and distribution anymore. He said the government must instead focus on the development of farmlands already distributed to farmers by extending them adequate assistance in the form of farm inputs and extension services.
Data from the department showed that P130 billion has already been spent for CARP since its was implemented in 1988. This is on top of over P300 billion that the Land Bank of the Philippines is asking Congress to fund payments of about 600,000 hectares of land already taken but not yet paid for.
Stakeholders in the agriculture sector have assailed the way CARP extension is being rushed through pending bills in both the Senate and House of Representatives.
They said that almost everybody agrees that the program has failed and yet Congress is being asked to approve its extension after the lapse of the CARP law on June l3.
Lawyer Gil Alba of the Confederation of Rice and Grains Producers said the government has incurred outstanding loans of $464 million to implement CARP. The data was taken from a paper of the Freedom from Debt Coalition presented at the recent Rural Poverty Seminar of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.
“Where did all the money go? Congress is being asked to rush the approval of CARP extension and ask questions later. This is like giving our prodigal son the rest of the family’s wealth without asking to what kind of vice he has lost his inheritance,” the Confed official said.