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Commentary

Agrarian reform in the Duterte administration

04:04 AM October 15, 2019

The evaluation of the current land acquisition and distribution (LAD) record under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) must be viewed in context, to see the true picture of CARP in this administration.

Previous administrations boast of high LAD performance simply because CARP during the earlier periods focused on alienable and disposable lands of the public domain (A&D lands), and unused agricultural government-owned lands (GOLs). These types of lands subjected to CARP were unopposed. Private agricultural lands (PALs) occupy the last rung in the implementation ladder. PALs are difficult to cover under CARP due to the resistance of landowners. The challenges from landowners have the net effect of dragging, if not altogether halting, CARP implementation.

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Republic Act No. 9700 (CARP Extension with Reforms or Carper) sets June 30, 2014, as the deadline for the issuance of the notice of coverage (NOC), which is the first legal step in the LAD activity. Congress wanted to complete LAD by 2014, subject to a master plan to be formulated by the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC). It did not come to fruition because no plan was formulated. PARC was in hiatus for 10 years (2006 to 2016) when the Carper deadline took effect.

The majority of agrarian reform titles issued under the CARP were collective certificates of land ownership award (Cloas). The collective title is far easier to issue than individual titles. The DAR simply cancelled the certificate of title and substituted it with a collective Cloa. There was no field investigation and no partitioning of the awarded land. In other words, CARP coverage, via the issuance of collective Cloas, provided a “shortcut” to CARP implementation.

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Despite the difficulties, the CARP under President Duterte is in a period of reawakening. This is the second phase of agrarian reform.

President Duterte reactivated the PARC on Sept. 12, 2016. The PARC immediately revoked stock distribution option plans and agribusiness venture arrangements, which ran counter to the provisions of agrarian reform laws.

Aware of the restrictions imposed by the Carper deadline, the President issued Executive Order No. 75, Series of 2019, to cover unused GOLs, thus making available at least 300,000 hectares to our landless farmers and farmworkers. The inventory includes the Yulo King Ranch or YKR in Busuanga, Coron in Palawan (8,000 hectares), the Davao Penal Colony or Dapecol in Davao del Norte (5,000 hectares) and the Aurora State College of Technology or Ascot in Baler, Aurora (110 hectares).

The President mandated the DAR to parcelize all collective Cloas, and provided funding for this parcelization through the use of government and international funding facilities. He also directed the DAR to complete the LAD process by 2022.

The President is focusing on the distribution of Cloas to agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) nationwide. Agrarian reform cooperatives and the unbanked segment of the ARBs have increased credit access through the Land Bank of the Philippines.

The Duterte administration is heir to an agrarian reform program with several shortcomings. While it is a fact that 4.8 million hectares of agricultural lands have been distributed to 2.7 million ARBs, there is still a lack of sufficient support services to ARBs and their dependents. The lack of support services is the proximate cause why ARBs engage in illegal sales or lease transactions.

The CARP in the Philippine setting has a mixed record. We have successful agrarian reform cooperatives. Inversely, there are ARBs who are still waiting to be installed despite the fact that Cloas have been issued to them. We have ARBs in possession of their awarded titles who have been removed from what they already own through violent means.

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These are the challenges in CARP under the current administration. These problems have been in existence since the previous administrations. What sets the Duterte administration apart from its predecessors is the fact that this presidency has agrarian reform in its heart.

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Luis M.C. Pañgulayan is the undersecretary for legal affairs of the Department of Agrarian Reform.

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TAGS: agrarian reform, Inquirer Commentary, Luis M.C. Pañgulayan, Rodrigo Duterte
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