WITH MODESTO P. SA-ONOY
Once again the government promises to complete the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform program initiated on June 10, 1988. There is an estimated 900,000 hectares of prime agricultural land that remains to be placed under the program and farmers’ organizations are complaining that the government is moving very slow.
These lands are 10 hectares and above, but whether the government will be able to distribute the land within the remaining two years from now remains a pipe dream to those who want to own the land.
I do not use the word farmer because not all of those who want these lands to be distributed are farmers and actual tillers. I know of some who have not handled a plough or tilled the land with a spade or a guna or a tama. They simply are demanding, just in case they also get a piece of the action.
The landowners had also become smarter. They have incorporated or had, much earlier converted their lands into industrial parks, orchards, plantations for export crops, forest lands, subdivisions and even memorial parks. We can see these idle lands that are supposed to be subdivisions or parks now grown with cogon.
The implementation of the CARP had been mired in controversy, not the least of which was created by the present Budget Secretary Butch Abad who used to head it under the late President Corazon Aquino. There was a missionary zeal by Department of Agrarian Reform personnel who worked more for the quota for coverage than insuring that the tillers of the land, the real beneficiaries get the land they and their forebears had tilled.
This uncontrolled takeover of lands had caused landowners to fight back. Despite this many lucky guys with connections with the DAR personnel in the municipality level were able to get lands even if they were trisikad drivers.
On the other hand, many bonafide farmer workers were left out in the listing prepared by DAR personnel. This scandalous behavior had resulted in a continuing conflict when there ought to be none.
The landowners’ complaint was the confiscatory nature of the implementation. The government took over the lands without paying for them. I know that some, 20 years later, are not yet paid even the Land Bank bonds that are supposed to be redeemed in 10 years remain unpaid.
If the law had not been confiscatory in its concept, the implementation of the CARP would have been an excellent program, but it used the Japanese, Chinese and Taiwanese model that were forced on the landowners even before the government had the money to compensate the owners.
Japan, China and Taiwan had confiscatory land acquisition program and distribution that worked but the circumstances at the time of their implementation were different.
General Douglas MacArthur was in total control of the defeated Japan and he mandated the government takeover of lands from the landlords and had their compensation invested in industrial giants to widen their ownership base and prevent them from waging another aggressive war.
In China the communist merely confiscated the land and forced their production. It was a total failure that today it is estimated over 10 million people starved to death due to government economic plan that led to famine. The government simply starved people to death to feed its privilege party members.
When Mao died and new leaders emerged, the government rejected the communist controlled economy. Now it is a leading economic power.
The Taiwan experience is another case that is different from our own. Chiang Kai Sheik took over the lands from the natives of the island for its refugees from the mainland, but he shifted the money to industries and turned this island into an economic miracle.
When the Philippines adopted the present CARP, we were not under military rule as in Japan and Taiwan or a dictatorship as in China. We were supposed to be a democracy, in fact the sitting president, Corazon Aquino was hailed as the icon of democracy, but the people around her were inclined to the left of the political and economic spectrum.
Unfortunately for us, her retinue leaned towards the agrarian take over due to their perception that landowners are exploitative. Thus there was strong opposition from the landowner.
Unless Congress extends the law, it terminates in 2014 after it was extended in 2009.
Can or will Congress extend it again? Chances are low and opposition will be stronger now than in 2009 and Congress is facing an election next year. The many failures of CARP are stacked against another extension.
Land acquisition and distribution are the least easy, compared to making the program work. The first requires billions and the second demands a lot of honesty in DAR. Helping the beneficiary for years to make a small lot of land prosper is more challenging.*
back to top