Genuine agrarian reform bill ‘better than Carper’

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014


AS MORE than a hundred peasants from Bukidnon continue their march to Malacañang to own the land they have been fighting for, a leader of a tribal group thinks the protesting peasants should also go beyond the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (Carper) campaign.

Datu Jomorito Goaynon, chairman of the lumad group Kalumbay, said the marching peasants must not rely on Carper alone to fight for their lands, but also lobby for the approval of the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (Garb).

Garb, or House Bill 374, is a legislation that Goaynon hopes would offer peasants a far better alternative than what Carper has to offer.

Authored by members of the progressive party-list representatives, Garb is still pending at the House of Representatives, while Carper, also known as Republic Act 9700, is set to expire on June 30, 2014.

While farmer-groups like Task Force Mapalad (TFM) and Alliance of Land Rights Movement in Mindanao (Alarm-Mindanao) have initiated the march for a cause for the second time to remind the government of their demands, Goaynon said, "They should also set their sights on Garb since Carper’s timeframe is almost at its end."

The problem with Carper, he said, is that there are loopholes agri corporations or huge land owners can tweak to their advantage and to the detriment of the peasants.

“Their cause is reasonable since they only want to have land they can call their own, but I think Carper may not be the best answer to that,” Goaynon told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro by phone Tuesday afternoon.

The Carper, he said, is not really friendly to the peasants due to a provision that could lead them to losing what they have been struggling to own.

Goaynon said a Carper provision states that a local government unit (LGU) can convert an arable area from agricultural into industrial or residential.

Under Carper, an LGU has the power to decide if the land is “Carpable” (a land that could be distributed to the landless farmers) or not.

Goaynon said there is a danger that the peasants cannot be awarded with the land that they are fighting for.

If the farmers will just focus their struggle to Carper, he said they might not get land at all.

PNoy not decisive

He added that even if President Benigno Aquino III will give in to the farmers’ demands, he does not have the power to personally distribute the land to them since he will have to refer it the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), the government agency tasked to do the conversion and distribution.

Goaynon added that once Carper will expire, the peasants will no longer have assurance to own lands.

What the farmers should be pushing instead, he said, is the passage of the Garb.

Garb provisions

“With the passage of Garb into law, our farmers will not only have the land, but they will get assistance from the government to make their farm lots productive,” Goaynon said.

Among the provisions of Garb is the free distribution of land, the subsidy that the government will provide to the peasant-petitioners and marketing.

“With Garb, this is no longer about agrarian reform but agriculture,” Goaynon said, adding that the advantages that Garb offers to landless farmers all over the country are better than what have been stipulated in Carper.

Meanwhile, the marching peasants is expected to arrive in the city later today, May 28, an itinerary emailed by Task Force Mapalad to this paper Tuesday afternoon indicated.

From Manolo Fortich, the marchers will have arrived in Barangay Puerto, this city, by 5 p.m., where they will meet with other participating groups from Davao provinces and Caraga region, the itinerary reads.

On Thursday, May 29, the contingent will walk from Barangay Puerto to the City Tourism Hall at 6 a.m and are expected to arrive there during lunchtime.

In the afternoon of the same day, the farmers will attend an interfaith service at Kiosko sa Kagawasan in Divisoria. They will stay at Barangay Macasandig covered court for the night.

On Friday, May 30, the groups will go to the offices of DAR, National Commission for Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for a series of dialogues.

The following day, May 31, the farmers will depart for Manila.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on May 28, 2014.

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