GMA endorses CARP bill

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — PRESIDENT Macapagal-Arroyo has certified as urgent the bill extending the life of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said the President issued the certification in a letter to Speaker Prospero Nograles.

Bunye said Mrs. Arroyo certified House Bill 4077 which extends agrarian reform law by five years. Extension of the law allows the acquisition and distribution to landless farmers of all agricultural lands to continue.

Nograles said he expected the House of Representatives to approve the measure within the week, possibly today. In fact, he thought it would be passed on third reading yesterday.

Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros Monday urged the President to certify the measure pointing out that the agrarian reform program expires on June 10.

Hontiveros accused Rep. Ignacio Arroyo and other Negros Occidental lawmakers of delaying the approval of the bill. She said some 200,000 hectares of the 1.1 million hectares of undistributed land in Negros Occidental, owned by the Arroyos and other families, would be affected by the program.

At least two big farmers groups from Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon have been pushing for the approval of the measure.

The Presidential Commission on Good Government urged lawmakers to fast track the approval of the measure seeking to extend CARP for another five years.

Narciso Nario, PCGG Commissioner for Legal Affairs, said they are asking for an extension of the law for the sake of the farmers who are its direct beneficiaries.

Nario explained that should the CARP law not be extended, the recovered alleged ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses would go directly to the general funds instead of financing the acquisition and distribution of agricultural land to farmers.

Albay Rep. Edcel C. Lagman, member of the House committee on agrarian reform and chairman of the committee on appropriations, said that if Congress fails to extend the land acquisition and distribution (LAD) component of the CARP before it expires on June 10, “it would virtually kill CARP in violation of the Constitution.”

Based on the records of the Department of Agrarian Reform and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, as stated in HB 4077, the government has yet to acquire a balance nationwide of 1,858,792 hectares of agricultural land that could be distributed to farmer beneficiaries during the proposed five-year extension of the LAD.

Meanwhile, a big alliance of farmers yesterday threatened “a new wave of rebellion” in the rural areas if lawmakers fail to extend CARP.

Vangie Mendoza, Deputy National Coordinator for Ugnayan ng Nagsasariling Organisasyon sa Kanayunan, said farmers who have not received their share of land from the program will surely be up in arms against the government.

“Walang dahilan para hindi i-extend ang naturang programa na tunay namang para sa mga magsasakang walang mga sariling lupang sinasaka,” she said.

Mendoza added that most of their members are former New People’s Army rebels who decided to give up the armed struggle in exchange for land to till.

“But if these lawmakers would decide not to extend CARP anymore, then expect that these former rebels would go back to the hills,” warned Mendoza.