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Questions that Matter
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
THESE past two weeks I was out of circulation due to hectic schedules. Research projects, theses, grades, graduations, symposia and fora were my preoccupations. Anyway, now I am back from the past. First of all, congratulations to all the graduates of the Philippine 10-year educational system, the one which most of us are a product of. Also, my condolences and sympathies to the family of Congressman Jeffrey Ferrer for the passing away of Tita Lydia Ferrer.
Last week, I was invited to attend the forum on the extension of the multi-extended Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. The speaker was Dr. Raul Fabella, national scientist and UP professor of economics. Dr. Fabella is a native of Negros (La Carlota) and was an ex-seminarian of the Augustinian Recollects.
I was a little shocked that a UP professor of economics was to present a study that would mock the Philippine agrarian reform program. I confess that I am for the redistribution of lands but it should be equitable and proper. The cry should not be land for the landless but land for the tillers.
The good doctor told the audience that his study found out that Carp (1988) and Carper (2009) instead of making better the lives of the beneficiaries had made it more miserable. No matter how the Department of Agrarian Reform would say it that they have successfully redistributed the lands, having an outstanding 99 percent implementation of their targets, the Filipino remains to be poor and continues to live below poverty line. In short, Filipinos are still becoming poorer every year. In fact, Fabella added that the Carp had made a new social class – “the landed poor.”
Let me share some points which Fabella shared to us. He showed us the design flaws of the program. First, Carp created the “entrepreneurship myth.” Carp injected into the minds of the small farmers that they are now entrepreneurs and not tillers of their lands. They have to be in par with the former big landlords. In short the lifestyle must and should change to a costly standard of living. Second, the Coase theorem has been damned. Productivity is the priority and land exchange is outlawed. In short, there is no room for the beneficiaries to get funding from formal institutions but rather go into an underground loan business that would eventually put the ARBs into bankruptcy. Third, the free market is damned. This is self-explanatory. It will be the state that will allow the market to move and not to have a free market.
Fourth, the land size is impossible. Owning three hectares is doomed to fail. With the rising prices of pre and post harvest facilities, one could see that a three- to five-hectare land will not help alleviate the family’s poverty, especially that the needs have already turned into wants. Fifth, the comprehensiveness of Carp. It included all types of crops and has only one law. During the Marcos regime land reform was only limited to rice and the rest were exempted. Republic Act 6657 has widened the coverage to all lands regardless of crop. A comprehensive law was applied. This is another great flaw.
Thus with these design flaws, Fabella suggested that the land ownership limit be lifted and give chance to farmers and tillers to own more. Effective and efficient farmers should own more than the five-hectare land limit. Allow banks to extend loans and have farmers and ARBs use their lands as collateral. Taxes on ARBs and landowners should be reviewed and should adopt a progressive process.
However, and no matter how great was the presentation of Dr. Fabella, there is one point that we all miss in the process. We have to learn how to share our properties. Agrarian reform beneficiaries and land owners should understand the very concept of sharing. Looking at our present state, it seems that we live either in purgatory or in hell. We fail to do the will of God for us. We have to share the earth’s resources.
The present Carp is simply trying to invert the world and not offer solutions to the problems of greed and poverty.
St. Ezekiel Moreno, Sts. Lorenzo Ruiz and Pedro Calungsod, Blessed John Paul II, Mons. John Liu and John Su, and Sir Faraon Lopez, pray for us.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on April 02, 2014.