Peasants march from Bukidnon to Malacañang for land

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Monday, May 26, 2014


CAGAYAN DE ORO - A farmer’s group marches Monday from Bukidnon to Malacañang’s doorsteps to ask President Benigno Aquino III where has the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (Carp) gone.

The group accused Aquino of having “no political will” since he has never been serious in implementing the Carp amid his promise to distribute lands.

Joseph Coles, Task Force Mapalad (TFM) area coordinator, said it has been two years since hundreds of farmers made a historic march from Mindanao all the way to the Malacañang in Manila and yet thousands of hectares of land have yet to be distributed to them.

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“Saan na ang lupang pinangako (where is the land that you promised)?” Coles asked, referring to Aquino’s promise in 2012 that he would order the distribution of huge tracts of land covered under Carp.

Coles said the peasants also want Aquino to issue an executive order to ensure the continuity of Carp with appropriate funds to support the farmers even if the program will expire on June 30, 2014.

He said Carp should be sustained even after its expiration to give enough time for the government to issue notices of coverage (NOCs) to all beneficiaries who had applied for coverage prior to the termination of Carp.

Coles said there are still about 10,000 hectares of lands in Mindanao that should have been given to the farmers but until now have remained in the hands of huge landowners.

He added that Aquino should also appoint pro-Carp people in the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) who are sincere in addressing the plight of the farmers.

In an emailed statement, the Alliance of Land Rights Movement in Mindanao (Alarm-Mindanao) has laid out its seven-point agenda as they call on Aquino to heed to their demands, among them:

To order the DAR for the immediate issuance of NOCs to big agricultural landholdings in Mindanao owned by influential landlords before June 30, 2014, such as the 590 hectares (has) land owned by Ayala Agricultural Development Corporation in Davao del Sur; 845 has. owned by South Davao Agricultural Company in Davao del Sur and Davao City; 764 has. owned by Prosperidad Agricultural Corporation in Agusan del Sur; 156 has. owned by the Fortich family in Valencia town in Bukidnon; 111 has. owned by the Lapanday Group of Companies in Davao City.

The group also wants the complete distribution of all landholdings that have already been placed in the pipeline for land distribution and act with dispatch on the pending agrarian cases ensuring delivery of long delayed promise of land and justice to the farmer-petitioners in various areas in Mindanao.

Alarm-Mindanao said the implementation of land acquisition and distribution (LAD) must be extended and the government must provide the necessary funding to implement acquisition and distribution of all agricultural lands covered by the Carp to its finality and to be funded from the Agrarian Reform Fund and other funding sources in the amount in the amount of at least P150 billion.

The allied farmers also want the creation of an Independent Agrarian Reform Commission with legal powers of subpoena and contempt and with the cooperation of other relevant government agencies to review the actual accomplishments of Carp and Carp with Extension Reforms (Carper) and investigate circumventions and violations of the law and cause these lands to be forcibly acquired and distributed to qualified beneficiaries and correct the various schemes that actually deny farmer beneficiaries’ full and peaceful control of land ownership.

In addition, the group wants Aquino to order DAR and the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) to review CARP amortization delinquencies and provide relief to deserving agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) to give them another chance to make the transition to owner-cultivators.

There is also a need to reexamine the charter of the LBP for it to become an effective primary source of credit and initial capital for ARBs.

Lastly, Alarm-Mindanao demands the Aquino administration to designate DAR executives who are pro-CARP, capable, well-respected and well-accepted by the farmers and agrarian reform stakeholders.

“Accordingly, the DAR bureaucracy and the other CARP implementing agencies should be reenergized and retooled to effectively respond or deliver the requirements of CARP completion within the context of sustainable rural and national development,” the group added.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on May 27, 2014.

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