‘Transition plan’ to junk, not finish, agrarian reform

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Contrary to the pledge of President Aquino to complete the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) during his third State of the Nation Address, the recent actions of his administration indicate that he is reneging on this commitment.

First, the “transition plan of the Department of Agrarian Reform” will transfer the support services to the Department of Agriculture and other CARP-implementing agencies; scale down its staffing; and rationalize its organizational structure. This looks more like an abandonment of the program, not effective implementation and completion. The transition plan is contained in item number 5 under the special provisions of the 2013 CARP Extension with Reforms (Carper)/National Expenditure Plan Budget submitted by Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio “Gil” delos Reyes to the House of Representatives.

DA does not have the appropriate organizational structure to cater to agrarian reform beneficiaries, especially at the barangay level, and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala himself has admitted that his department is not ready for such transfer. On the other hand, Delos Reyes shifts the blame to the Department of Budget and Management, in particular Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, who allegedly is the “brains” behind this transition plan.

Further, from the 2013 Carper budget submitted by DAR, it is apparent that DAR is being prepared for phaseout and will be “legally” abolished by June 30, 2014. In fact, we know that Secretary Abad has proposed a zero-budget for DAR in 2014.

We share the concern of more than 80 lawmakers, including Pampanga Rep. Anna York Bondoc who is in charge of DAR’s budget, that the President has “virtually crippled DAR” because of the transition plan, despite DAR’s land distribution backlog (“Agrarian reform areas not priority in 2013 budget, says lawmaker,” Inquirer, 9/30/12).

Second, Delos Reyes already admitted that the department will not be able to finish land distribution, leaving around as much as 321,974 hectares of undistributed land by June 2014, the deadline for the completion of land distribution under Carper.  This size of land comprises more than one-fourth of DAR’s land distribution target. The non-implementation of Carper will affect 1.1 million farmers. We expect that these figures will increase as Delos Reyes is off-track in his own targets for land distribution, as shown the constant revision of land distribution targets for 2012 from 260,000 to 240,000 and now to 180,000.

Third, the rationalization plan has resulted in demoralization among DAR’s rank and file. This has contributed not only to the paralyzation of the bureaucracy but also to the poor implementation of CARP. At this critical stage, the Mr. Aquino should instead reenergize the bureaucracy.

We urge the Aquino administration to abandon the transition plan.

—JAIME TADEO, spokesperson, Save Agrarian Reform Alliance, Quezon City;

NANETTE PASCUAL, president,

Department of Agrarian Reform Employees Association, Quezon City

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