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Evaluating RP's asset reform

By Joel Pagsanghan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:05:00 07/13/2008

Filed Under: indigenous people, Mining and quarrying, Poverty, Agrarian Reform, Fishing Industry, Housing & Urban Planning

In Mount Canatuan, Zamboanga del Norte, Subanon chieftain Jose Anoy looks on helplessly as a mining company tears up the sacred land of his forefathers. The place was declared by law to be the ancestral domain of the Subanon, and the tribe did not permit this mining operation. But it goes on.

In Lucena, Quezon, Reynaldo Atiga, a small-scale fisherman, is considering giving up fishing in favor of manual labor on a chicken farm. He can no longer meet the daily needs of his family through fishing.

Long wait

Lino Mendoza, an agrarian reform beneficiary in Mabitac, Laguna, has been waiting for 13 years for his Certificate of Land Ownership Award (Cloa). He wonders whether 13 would be a lucky number.

Gloria Biendo, a widow and laundry woman, is unhappy with her housing unit in a resettlement site in Pavia, Iloilo. The site is far from the city where she works. The walls of the raw house are hollow and the place is flooded during rainy season.

The farmers, indigenous peoples, fisherfolk and urban slum dwellers constitute the vast majority of the poor in the Philippines. Their poverty is rooted in a lack of control over the basic assets and natural resources on which they depend for sustenance and survival.

For farmers it is the land they till, for tribal communities their ancestral domain, for small fisherfolk the fishing grounds close to the shore and for urban slum dwellers their homes.

Reform laws

Cognizant of this social justice problem, the government passed various "asset reform" laws aimed at giving the poor control over the assets and natural resources they need for survival. The best known asset reform program--land reform--is now being hotly debated in Congress. Farmers are lobbying for the extension, with reforms, of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988 (CARL), while landlords are trying to stall Congress.

Seemingly forgotten, however, are the other asset reform laws--the Indigenous People's Rights Act of 1997 (Ipra), the Fisheries Code of 1998, and the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992 (Udha).

Ipra gives indigenous peoples the right to manage their ancestral domains and all development activities conducted therein must be with their consent. The Fisheries Code mandates that all fishing grounds 10 kilometers from the coastline be exclusively reserved for small fisherfolk.

Performance review

Udha provides an overall policy framework for government provision of socialized housing.

These landmark laws constitute the state's commitment to social justice by reforming the unequal distribution of assets and resources in the country.

However, a comprehensive 2008 study by civil society has found that government's performance in the implementation of these laws is poor. The Philippine Asset Reform Report Card (Parrc), led, by Dr. Cielito Habito and the Philippine Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas or PhilDHRRA (a rural development NGO network), has concluded that "governance weaknesses, including weak coordination, overlapping mandates, conflicting laws, lack of clear accountabilities and poor interagency communication have been the typical hurdles to more expeditious conduct of the various processes and delivery of services under the asset reform programs."

Beneficiaries' perspective

The research is a performance review of asset reform implementation from the perspective of the beneficiaries. Using a multistage sampling design, beneficiaries of the four asset reform programs were selected.

The respondents were asked to assess the processing time of the issuance of tenurial instruments (such as titles), provision of support services and threats to the asset-reform program.


The Parrc is the most comprehensive study on asset-reform implementation in the Philippines. The study covers:

1,851 agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) in agrarian reform communities (ARCs) in 32 provinces
468 beneficiaries of various government housing programs in 19 provinces
108 holders of Certificates of Ancestral Domain Claims/Titles (CADCs/CADTs) in 29 provinces
92 coastal municipalities in 30 provinces

The study is particularly authoritative with regard to Ipra and the Fisheries Code, where no comprehensive studies have been done (only case studies and desk studies exist in the research literature).

The Parrc also mobilized NGOs that have expertise in the asset-reform programs covered. These were the Koalisyon ng mga Katutubong Samahan ng Pilipinas for the indigenous peoples, John J. Carroll Institute on Church and Social Issues for the urban poor, People's Campaign for Agrarian Reform Now for agrarian reform, and NGOs for Fisheries Reform for the fisheries sector.

On a per sector basis, the major findings of the study are as follows:

Agrarian reform

Only 44 percent of the beneficiary-respondents were able to access credit, with only 7 percent provided by government.

More than half (52.3 percent) do not have access to post-harvest facilities (e.g. thresher, drier, hauler and warehouse). Government provided less than two-fifths (37.9 percent) of these.

The time lag from Cloa issuance to its distribution to ARBs is more than one year.

More than one-tenth (13.7 percent) said they experienced legal or physical harassment by one or more sectors. This includes harassment from landowners, the military, other farmers (due to boundary disputes) and insurgents.


Most respondents (78.3 percent) do not have adequate housing, even if the Fisheries Code mandates government to provide fisherfolk settlements.

More than half of the respondents (56.8 percent) said that commercial fishing vessels encroached on municipal waters supposedly reserved for small-scale (subsistence) fisherfolk.

Only one-third (32.6 percent) of total respondents have access to post-harvest facilities (e.g. fish port, ice plants and cold storage, fish landing, fish processing plants, etc).

Less than two-thirds of the total respondents have access to credit and government has provided only one-third of it.

Only two-thirds (66.7 percent) of local government units with coastal areas issued an ordinance setting forth the extent of their municipal waters. Without ordinances, municipal waters delineated by the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority are not legally enforceable.

Ancestral domain

Extractive activities are present in more than one-third (39.8 percent) of the ancestral domains, with logging and mining as the most prevalent.

A majority of the extractive activities (almost three-fourths or 72.1 percent of the total number of extractive activities) are in operation without the free, prior and informed consent of the tribes, as mandated by Ipra.

Delays in processing of tenurial instruments persist: It takes three years from the application of CADT to its issuance and another six months from issuance to awarding to the tribes. It will also take at least four years to convert a CADC to CADT.

On the other hand, almost three-fourths (74.1 percent) of the respondents have access to infrastructure and extension services.

Socialized housing

Government has various housing programs for the poor. The Community Mortgage Program allows the urban poor to collectively purchase the land they are occupying through a community mortgage. Presidential Land Proclamations are government lands officially declared open for disposition as housing sites to qualified beneficiaries.

In addition, government is mandated to provide resettlement to poor families whose homes are demolished by virtue of a court order, infrastructure projects or clearing of danger zones.

Mortgage program

Only 32 percent of the respondents have drainage systems and only 24 percent have water supply systems.

More than one-third (36 percent) of Community Mortgage Program sites do not have paved roads and almost half (45 percent) have no streetlights.

A majority (56 percent) have not yet received any certificate of lot entitlement.

A majority (87 percent) are not yet paying the monthly amortization.

Almost half (49.4 percent) reported that their communities have no Community Development Plan.

Only 39 percent reported that their community has an approved subdivision plan.

Only half of the beneficiaries (54 percent) have been given an Individual Notice of Lot Award.

Only one-fifth (23 percent) have started to secure ownership of their land through the payment of amortization.

Social equalizer

Despite the poor asset reform implementation record, the study notes that most of those who have benefited from asset reform see their lives as having improved. This only underscores the importance of asset reform as a "social equalizer," which must be implemented effectively by government, in partnership with concerned stakeholders.

Due to the various shortcomings in implementation, the study recommends that a deliberate process audit be conducted for each asset reform program to pinpoint specific bottlenecks and address delays and other inadequacies. The study concludes that ultimately, successful asset reform implementation is a matter of good governance and political will.

(Joel Pagsanghan, MDM and MPA, is the research coordinator of the Philippine Asset Reform Report Card. Comments are welcome at nc@phildhrra.org)

Ancestral domain

Percentage of ancestral domains where extractive activities like logging and mining are present

of total number of extractive activities are in operation without the consent of tribes

of respondents have access to infrastructure and extension services


of respondents said commercial fishing vessels encroached on
fisherfolk-reserved waters

of respondents have access to fish ports, ice plants and other post-harvest facilities

of respondents have inadequate housing

Agrarian reform

of respondents said they experienced legal or physical harassment from landowners and other groups

of respondents do not have access to haulers, warehouses and other post-harvest facilities

of beneficiary-respondents were able to access credit

Socialized housing

of respondents have working drainage systems

of respondents have not yet received any lot entitlement certificate

of respondents reported that their communities have no community development plan

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