Groups call for 'genuine' land reform as CARPER ends

320_2014_06_30_08_27_45Activist groups on Tuesday called for the implementation of “true” land reform with the expiration of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER) law, saying it has not helped much in improving the plight of farmers.

In a statement, Akbayan Party-list acknowledged that CARPER “represented the people’s victory” against the landed elite, but said that it is important to ensure that the program’s purpose will still continue.

“The implementation of land reform proved the victory of poor farmers against private interests by bringing them one step up the ladder out of poverty,” said Akbayan chairperson Risa Hontiveros, who authored House Bill No. 1257 that helped lead to CARPER (Republic Act 9700).

For his part, Akbayan party-list Rep. Warden Bello said that the law is “not the problem.”

“The problem clearly has been the lack of courage and political will that marked the Department of Agrarian Reform’s (DAR) implementation of the law,” he said.

CARPER’s last day of effectivity is on June 30, 2014.

However, DAR Undersecretary Anthony Parungao clarified that this applies only to the capacity of the department to issue the Notice of Coverage (NOC), which is handed to landowners to inform them that their land will be placed under the program.

Section 30 of CARPER says pending cases on the matter by then “shall be allowed to proceed to its finality and be executed even beyond such date.”

Citing estimates from their office as of June 25, 2014, Parungao said there are some 32,000 hectares of land for which they will not be able to issue NOCs.

NOCs for another 46,000 hectares have been sent out, awaiting confirmation of receipt from landowners or publication in dailies, he added.

DAR reports ‘questionable’

Meanwhile, the Save Agrarian Reform Alliance (SARA) said there should be an independent audit of the performance of DAR and other implementing agencies for CARPER “to determine the state of agrarian reform in the country.”

In a statement, the coalition said DAR’s reports “remain questionable and are padded,” which leaves land reform groups with questions. The department’s performance has lent CARPER “a slow death,” it added.

“DAR has failed to publicly disclose the essential indicators of land distribution under CARPER,” said Jansept Geronimo from the farmer group KATARUNGAN, a co-convenor of SARA. “It’s difficult to assess where we should be going if we do not agree on the baseline.”

Leaders of the group also “welcome” the bills filed in Congress to extend the issuances of NOCs and ensuring the budget for the endeavor for another two years.

Land reform failure creates more informal settlers

For its part, the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) said the government’s failure to implement a proper land reform program is behind the squatting problems in urban centers.

Kadamay national chair Gloria Arellano said in a statement that CARPER “and its mother version” CARP “have failed” to ensure land distribution and “in acting on the issue of rampant land-grabbing by big landlords.”

This, Arellano said, has driven the poor “towards cities and urban centers in search for alternative livelihood sources and reliable jobs.”

Meanwhile, Anakpawis Party-list said true agrarian reform lies in the passage of the years-old Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB), authored by Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran, together with former Bayan Muna Reps. Satur Ocampo and Teddy CasiƱo (Bayan Muna) and Gabriela Reps. Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan.

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