After 16 years, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), the government agency tasked to implement CARP, reported that it distributed around 3.4 million hectares of lands to some 1.9 million beneficiaries as of May 2004. It now aims to distribute some 1.3 million hectares in the next four years.
Amid what critics said are the flaws and the emasculation of CARP, government may claim that land may have been given to many farmers. But the vast majority of land toilers remain poor forcing even many of what government had identified as tenant-beneficiaries to sell, mortgage or abandon their lands. In an ironic twist of fate, studies show that CARP lands have been gradually turned over back to the landlords.
A World Bank (WB) study cited by Ibon Foundation in a 1987 report estimated that in 1971, 2.3 million families in the rural areas or about 57 percent of the total rural population could not meet their basic needs. By 1983, the same study showed that while the percentage of rural families below the poverty line fell to 45 percent, the number of rural poor swelled to 2.6 million families. This pre-CARP agrarian situation seems to have persisted even after 16 years of the land reform program. The latest WB study showed that the number of the poor in the Philippines actually increased in the rural provinces by more than 300,000 between 1997 and 2003.
But according to the DAR, there were gains in improving the living standards of the farmers benefited by the land reform program. The department’s latest CARP impact assessment study compared poverty incidence in rural areas between 1990 and 2000 and, in the same period, between Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs) and non-ARBs.
In other ARCs where land distribution is completed, the average yield is 2.0 metric tons per hectare for corn and 1.7 metric tons per hectare for coconut as against the national average of 1.5 metric tons and 1.3 metric tons, respectively. In contrast, CARP beneficiaries outside ARCs harvest less than the ARC beneficiaries but are better off than non-beneficiaries, the same study revealed.
Beneficiaries in ARCs, numbering about 496,322, comprised less than 25 percent of total CARP beneficiaries. Given the estimated over 10 million Filipino farmers today, the number of ARC beneficiaries is less than five percent and hence, could hardly have any large-scale impact toward reducing poverty.
Poor and landless
In Tarlac province, about 100 kms north of Manila, Hacienda Luisita (H.L.) was once touted as a showcase of the land reform program. Here, however, CARP has failed to win the hearts and minds of farmers: In recent random interviews, they told Bulatlat.com that their lives have been ruined further because of CARP. Luisita is owned by the family of former President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino.
Within 30 years under this scheme, hacienda owners were to transfer 32 percent of the total stocks of the company to the farm workers.For the past 15 years, Nakpil received an average daily wage of P9, a sack of rice every month, a P4,000 educational loan every June and an average annual three percent profit share of around P2,000.
Today at 62, Nakpil says he has only a home lot souvenir from the HLI, a P20,000 separation pay, and some P2,600 monthly pension from the Social Security System. His retirement ended his profit share from the HLI. He does not have land to pass on to his children. His monthly pension gave him just P86 a day that can hardly meet his family’s needs. And so his answer in Filipino: “I am poor, past and present.”
The case of CARP and Presidential Decree No. 27 (land reform under then President Ferdinand Marcos) beneficiaries who were compelled to join the 30,000-ha. grand cassava plantation joint project of San Miguel Corporation (SMC) and the provincial government of Isabela is a striking example of how farmers have become poorer over the years despite purported land ownership. SMC is controlled by Eduardo Cojuangco, another member of the Cojuangco clan.
The poverty situation, as depicted in Tarlac and Isabela, is aggravated by undelivered promises of CARP. DAR claims to have distributed lands at an average of 112,000 hectares per year. If true and at this pace, the balance of around 930,000 hectares will be completed in about eight more years or by 2010, two years past the 2008 deadline set by Congress under Republic Act No. 8534 during the term of President Fidel Ramos.
Based on this projection, which became the basis for the CARP’s extended term, DAR should be able to distribute at least 200,000 hectares yearly beginning 1998 to fully implement the adjusted working scope of 4.3 hectares in about six years. By this year, the entire country should have been declared free from land acquisition and distribution. These earlier projections, however, never materialized. On top of this, there are more than 40,000 cases of land conflicts and other issues pending before the DAR Adjudication Board and regular courts.
As far as David Erro, executive director of a Quezon City-based foundation Sentro Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (Sentra – Center for Genuine Agrarian Reform), is concerned CARP is not for the landless peasants. “It is an instrument of the landed elite to make the landless believe that someday they will own the land they till and so pacify the restlessness in the countryside. But, owing to several loopholes of the law, the landlords find their way to continuously control the land,” he told Bulatlat.com.
-With additional research by Ma. Jessica Ocasla and John Thomas Sipin / Bulatlat.com
Ten Cafgus have been organized in the villages of Pando, Motrico, Astirias, Texas, Bantog, Cutcut, Balete, Mapalacsiao, Parang and Mabilog. The recruitment coincided with the elections for the new set of officers of the United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU), the union of the hacienda’s 5,339 sugar farm workers.
- to intimidate the voters and
- force them not to vote for the progressive candidates from Ambala.
Parts of the hacienda were converted into the Luisita Golf and Country Club (70 hectares) and the Luisita Industrial Park (Phase 1, 120 hectares; Phase 2, 500 hectares). Japanese investors also came in by developing the 500-hectare Central Techno Park.
He said it also aims to intimidate the voting populace of the hacienda. “We’re ready for any eventuality. Although we take precautions, we remain undaunted,” he said.
Bulatlat.com/Photos by Dabet Castañeda;ZELDA D.T. SORIANO
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