Tuesday, May 21, 2024

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Genuine agrarian reform, not CARP, key to national development

By Ranmil Echanis
Deputy Secretary General
Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura

This is in reaction to Billy dela Rosa’s article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer titled “CARP: Key to national development” (Talk of the Town, 3/29/15).

Dela Rosa said that a more radical faction is demanding an end to the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program or CARP and is pushing for the passage of the genuine agrarian reform bill or GARB. However, he did not give GARB’s features any space in his arguments.

His piece dwelt on the history of the government land distribution programs from the Quirino presidency up to CARP (which ran for almost three decades—with two extensions—from 1988). The author refused to call CARP the dismal failure that it is as he batted for another extension.

CARP’s numerous loopholes, which Dela Rosa himself presented, led however to this: A bogus land reform program, CARP can only go so far as to create illusions of reform while actually maintaining land monopoly and foolishly attempting to suppress peasant unrest. The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas accurately describes CARP as the longest-running, most expensive and bloodiest bogus land reform program in the world, even before it finally expired in June 2014.

Dela Rosa himself says, the rampant cancellation of certificates of land ownership award (Cloas) to farmers now covers over a million hectares of land. He did not mention though that CARP required beneficiaries to pay land amortization; the failure to do so in three cumulative years would result in foreclosures. In Senate hearings, Land Bank officials admitted that only 10 percent of farmers have been able to pay these amortizations in full.

Free land distribution is one of the main features of GARB as this is the essence of social justice. Dela Rosa even decries CARP’s meager budget without mentioning that billions of pesos in public funds have actually been used to compensate despotic land-grabbers or lost to bureaucratic corruption and “support service” scams.

Support packages have supposedly resulted in improvements in beneficiaries’ incomes, the Department of Agrarian Reform reports. But just a look at the situation of farmworkers in the Aquino-Cojuangco’s Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) would reveal how completely bogus CARP is.

Cory Aquino’s CARP provided for a non-land transfer scheme, the stock distribution option (SDO), which turned farmworkers into “stockholders” with slave wages—P9.50 per payday in HLI. In 2012, the Supreme Court revoked HLI’s oppressive SDO. The scheme, however, is still in effect in a dozen haciendas in Negros and elsewhere, affecting thousands of farmworkers up to this day.

Almost three years past the high court’s landmark decision for total land distribution in Luisita, only 4,099 hectares out of the 6,453-hectare estate have been allocated for distribution. The issuance by DAR of belated notices of coverage proved useless as the Aquino-Cojuangcos employed brute force to evict farmers in areas supposedly “not covered by the Supreme Court ruling.”

Majority of Luisita beneficiaries who have meanwhile been awarded Cloas have now fallen prey to illicit leaseback contracts or aryendo brokered by dummies to maintain the Aquino-Cojuangcos’ control over sugarcane production. These contracts are akin to agribusiness venture agreements (Avas) or corporative schemes then promoted alongside the SDO and now being institutionalized by the current Aquino administration.

Avas legitimized land-grabbing and the exploitation of farmworkers by landlords and agribusiness. Private sector “assistance”—– i.e., monopoly control—is promoted to substitute for the state’s obligation to provide support services. The SDO and Avas make a complete mockery of agrarian reform’s aim to transfer ownership and control of agricultural lands to the tillers. As “beneficiaries” of CARP, farmworkers continue to endure landlessness and slave wages as the poorest of the rural poor.

CARP must now be completely junked along with destructive neoliberal schemes such as the SDO and Avas. Agrarian reform advocates must rethink their support for the pestilence called CARP.

GARB, with its aim to break up the monopoly of a few landowners and foreign control of agricultural lands, must now be enacted to put an end to feudal and semi-feudal exploitation in the Philippine countryside. Genuine land redistribution must be attended with a holistic program of support services that empower the peasantry politically, nurture their productive strength and carry out the spirit of true cooperativism. Agrarian reform must also be integrated with a program of national industrialization as key to genuine national development.

Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura
(Agricultural Workers Union)
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