PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte played as the living Messiah of the Agrarian Reform beneficiaries and holders of the Certificate of Land Ownership Award after he succeeded in bringing them to his “promised land.”
He did not just give out lands but also cellular phones and surprisingly, even the “mountains and idle government lands.”
He directed Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriciones to act on his promises and possibly convert the mountains so that the people can make it productive.
Duterte put smiles and joy to the hearts of at least 2,495 Agrarian Reform beneficiaries (ARBs) and 3,423 Certificate of Land Ownership Award (Cloa) recipients after he distributed the land titles at Balay Kauswagan in Sagay City on Friday, March 8.
Not only that, over half a million beneficiaries of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program can avail themselves of a free insurance program worth P1 billion.
The President was joined by Castriciones during the distribution witnessed by Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo G. Marañon Jr., Sagay City Mayor Alfredo Marañon III, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel R. Piñol and several of his Cabinet officials.
Duterte said there is a time for everything and this is the time to own a piece of land, which can help the farmers elevate their economic well-being.
He is grateful that the land distribution happened during his incumbency, and these farmers are now beaming with pride being new landowners in the province.
He first greeted the ARBs and Cloa awardees in his speech, but frankly asked them, “Do we have New People's Army here? Raise your hands.”
Duterte distributed around 1,609 hectares of land involving 141 landowners situated in eight cities and 11 municipalities in Negros Occidental. These are private agricultural lands, 95 percent of which was obtained through Compulsory Acquisition, and five percent under Voluntary Offer to Sell. Negros Occidental is one of the provinces nationwide that covers vast private agricultural lands.
Of the 2,495 ARBs who received their land titles, 485 of them have already been provided with basic and appropriate support services from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and other line agencies through the Land Tenure Improvement -Program Beneficiaries Development Integration Strategy. The supported titles cover 457 hectares.
Castriciones said the President promised to return to the city and address the issues that were raised by the farmers following the Sagay 9 incident, where nine farmers were killed by armed men on October 20, 2018.
He said Negros has the highest land acquisition distribution area in the country.
“We will be concentrating in Negros and this particular region,” said Castriciones.
“We also had Cloa distribution in La Union, Ilocos Norte, Pangasinan and Tarlac, which covered a portion of Hacienda Luisita,” continued Castriciones.
“This will complete the land distribution in the said hacienda. On March 15, there will be another Cloa distribution that will take place in Davao. They will also launch the biggest Cloa contribution in North Cotabato, which will be the biggest distribution covering about 21,000 hectares of land. This will also cover the area of the Aracan Valley, which has been a long-standing problematic government-owned land that belonged to the University of Southern Mindanao. This will cover around 4,500 hectares,” Castriciones said.
‘This is my land’
Sergio Dino Manlanat, an ARB from Barangay Bug-ang, Sitio Pulupangyan, Toboso, could not believe that he finally owns around 160 acres of land, which was only made possible under President Duterte.
“This land is mine,” he said.
Manlanat, a farmer with nine children, said that before receiving his land title, he already made the lands productive. This helped him pay for the education of his children—two of whom have already graduated and are already working abroad. He started working as a farm administrator in 1981. He has since planted rice, coconut and corn in the area.
He received his notice of coverage in 2011 and the ownership on Friday.
“Thank you so much, President Duterte, for giving us this land which will give us a stable means of livelihood. It truly fits the kind of work that we know, which is farming. We also promise that we will take care of this land that you have entrusted us,” said Manlanat.
Piñol, on the other hand, said the distribution marked the first direct collaboration between DAR and the Department of Agriculture (DA). This followed a memorandum of agreement that he and Castriciones signed last month, which stipulates that whenever DAR would distribute land titles to ARBs, the DA will come in.
“We are filling the void that was actually unfilled for so long. In many instances in the past, agrarian reform programs did not achieve its target accomplishment, mainly because of the lack of support from government agencies like DA,” said Piñol.
“We have joined hands—where DA will release P10 million as an initial loan fund for the beneficiaries of the Agrarian Reform community, we will also release a tractor. It’s symbolic,” continued Piñol. “One tractor can change the lives of farmers in this area. But it is a start of a bigger collaborative endeavor between DA and DAR,” he continued.
“Our program now calls for all support programs by the DA and DAR. The moment DAR gives land, DA will also come in for livelihood, irrigation and roads. During the DA budget hearing, we actually went over the prioritization of machinery under the Rice Competitive and Enhancement Fund and the Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Organizations (RBO).”
“ARBs are not being left out. We will not even think of them as ARBs but farmers who need support from the DA,” added Piñol.
There were also 200 sacks of palay seeds which were distributed to the ARBs and agricultural insurance coverage to ARBs and ARB household members.
Meanwhile, DAR and the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. (PCIC) revived the insurance program for ARBs.
PCIC allocated P1 billion from its budget for the insurance coverage where farmers can be protected in times of natural calamities such as typhoon, flood, drought, tornado, earthquake and volcanic eruption, as well as crop diseases and pest infestation.
Castriciones and PCIC President Jovy Bernabe signed a memorandum of agreement for this insurance program dubbed "Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries-Agricultural Insurance Program.
This also covers the “lives and limbs” of insured farmers and their family members.
But only those farmers listed under the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture can avail themselves of the insurance program.
This was successfully implemented in 2013 as DAR shouldered the P1 billion farmers' insurance premium.
There were 350,819 farmers served and indemnified by the program amounting to P18.567 billion.