PRESIDENT Benigno S. Aquino III has certified as urgent the passage of House Bill No. 4296 that will ensure the completion of the land acquisition and distribution (LAD) component of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (Carp).

The bill will extend the land reform program by two years.

In separate letters to Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., the President said it is crucial to address the immediate need to extend the operation of the LAD program under the Carp which is set to expire by the end of June.

The completion of LAD component of the Carp is pursuant to Republic Act No. 6657, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law.

“As a constitutionality mandated undertaking, it is imperative that the State ensure the completion of an agrarian reform program dedicated to the ideal of a just and equitable distribution of land among tenant farmers,” the President said.

President Aquino said that despite the Carp’s initial success in implementing agrarian reform, a substantial portion of the country’s agricultural lands remains beyond the program’s coverage.

“And will continue to be so unless the program’s efficacy is extended," he stressed.

"The certification of House Bill No. 4296 provides for the seamless implementation of the LAD and reaffirms this government’s dedication to implementing genuine land reform,” he added.

Figures of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) showed that of the total 710,000 hectares originally targeted for distribution between July 2010 and June 2013, only 360,464 hectares or 51 percent of the annual targets have been distributed to agrarian reform beneficiaries.

The President’s move came a day after the 26th anniversary of the land reform program started by the administration of his mother, the late President Corazon Aquino.

On Tuesday, the President met with leaders of farmers and peasant groups, including Dorita Vargas of Hacienda Canticbil-Manalo in La Castellana, Negros Occidental, Arnel Figueroa of the Pesante, Armando Jarilla of Task Force Mapalad, Organi Biong of Bitangan Estate, Irene Cerilla of Pakisama, and Maribel Luzara of Kilusang Magbubukid sa Bundok Peninsula.

Twenty provinces, including Negros Occidental, form the majority of the nationwide balance of 422,440 hectares or 78 percent of the 539,666-hectare balance nationwide.

As of 2014, Negros Occidental has the biggest LAD balance of 100,395 hectares.

On Monday, a group of farm workers in Negros Occidental held a protest action opposing the extension of the land reform program.

Kusog sang Obrero-Negros, a province-wide organization of agricultural workers, sought the support of provincial officials headed by Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. in relaying their opposition to another Carp extension.

The governor himself opposes the extension of the land reform program.

“The Carp has done little to alleviate the plight of farmers. It has, in fact, led to the deterioration of vast agricultural lands that used to be productive. And worse, Carp led to the demise of many of our peers as farmers turned against their fellow farmers,” said Kusog-Negros leader

Ernesto Ambil of Barangay Guiljungan, Cauayan said in a press statement.

Ambil said there is no reason to pursue another Carp extension because it is very clear that the land reform program failed to improve the conditions of people in agrarian reform communities (ARCs) and even farmers in non-ARC areas. (NLG with reports from PNA)