Giving space for Philippine agriculture
(First of two parts)
Around 50 percent of the world’s habitable land had already been converted to farming land, according to the World Wide Fund (WWF) Global’s report entitled, “Farming: Habitat Conversion & Loss.”
The WWF further reported that farming land will have to expand, with a further 120 million hectares of natural habitat expected to be converted to farmland, to meet the demand for food by the year 2050.
Sound rural dev’t
In this regard, the Philippine government enacted the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988 (CARP) as among its efforts to strengthen the farming industry and promote sound rural development and industrialization.
The CARP was enacted in accordance with the Philippines’ declared policies to, among others: (a) promote social justice through a more equitable distribution and ownership of land, with due regard to rights of landowners to just compensation and to the ecological needs of the nation; (b) pursue an agrarian reform program in which farmers and regular farm workers, who are landless, to own directly or collectively the lands they till or, in the case of other farm workers, to receive a just share of the fruits thereof; and (c) land has a social function and land ownership has a social responsibility.
Under the CARP, no person may own or retain, directly or indirectly, any public or private agricultural land, the size of which shall vary according to factors governing a viable family-size farm as may be determined by the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council, exceeding five hectares.
Three hectares may be awarded to each child of the landowner, subject to the following qualifications: (a) that he is at least 15 years of age; and (b) that he is actually tilling the land or directly managing the farm.
The landowner shall exercise the right to choose the land to be retained. But in case the area selected for retention by the landowner is tenanted, the tenant shall have the option to choose whether to: (a) remain in the retained land; or (b) be a beneficiary in the same or another agricultural land with similar or comparable features.
The tenant must exercise this option within a period of one year from the time the landowner manifests his choice of the area for retention.
Meanwhile, beneficiaries, who include agricultural lessees and share tenants, regular, seasonal, and other farm workers, actual tillers or occupants of public land, collectives or cooperatives of said beneficiaries, and others directly working on the land, may own not more than three hectares of agricultural land.
The CARP likewise states that the distribution of all land within its coverage shall be immediately implemented and completed within 10 years from its effectivity in 1988.
But, is the Philippines taking a step back from the WWF’s plausible prediction?
The Comprehensive Land Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER), which was enacted to extend the acquisition and distribution of agricultural land under CARP, expired on June 30, 2014, with thousands of hectares of land still to be distributed to farmers.
In fact, according to the Official Gazette, the Department of Agricultural Reform (DAR) and Department of Environment and Natural Resources still needed to acquire a total of 906,652 hectares of agricultural land for its distribution between 2014 and 2016.
Furthermore, according to DAR Secretary Rafael V. Mariano, pending cases of conversion and protests on coverage impede the distribution of lands to the farmers. In a report by the DAR, 58,220 agrarian law implementation cases remain pending from July 2016 to June 2017.
Of these, 27,981 cases were resolved and covered, including 209 dialogues involving 12,292 farmers, which was more than double the 97 consultation-dialogues held and 12 times the number of farmers accommodated from July 2015 to June 2016.
Nevertheless, Mariano said, “Farmers are still wallowing in poverty and landlessness. Landlords are using the courts to thwart the distribution of lands to agrarian reform beneficiaries.”
(To be continued)
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.