Genuine agrarian reform, not bogus CARP, key to national development

Hacienda Luisita farmers and their supporters protest vs the extension of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARPER) and the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) scheme in 2011. Photo by Bulatlat.com

Hacienda Luisita farmers and their supporters protest vs the extension of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARPER) and the Stock Distribution Option (SDO) scheme in 2011. Photo by Bulatlat.com

This is in reaction to an article written by Billy dela Rosa, entitled “CARP: Key to National Development” (PDI, March 29, 2015).

Dela Rosa says that a more radical faction in the agrarian reform debate is demanding an end to the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program or CARP and is pushing for the passage of the genuine agrarian reform bill or GARB. Features of the GARB, however, were not given any space in his arguments.

The piece dwells on the history of the government land distribution programs since Quirino up to the CARP, which ran for almost three decades with two extensions from 1988.  The author refuses to call the CARP the dismal failure that it is as he bats for another extension.

The CARP’s numerous loopholes that dela Rosa himself presented lead however to this: as a bogus land reform program, the CARP can only go so far as to create illusions of reform while actually maintaining land monopoly and foolishly attempting to suppress peasant unrest. The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) accurately describes the CARP as the longest-running, most expensive, and bloodiest bogus land reform program in the world, before the program finally expired in June 2014.

According to dela Rosa himself, rampant cancellation of certificates of land ownership awards (CLOA) to farmers now covers over a million hectares of land. He did not mention though that the CARP requires beneficiaries to pay for land amortization and the failure to do so in 3 cumulative years will result to foreclosures. In Senate hearings, LandBank officials admitted that only 10% of farmers have been able to pay these amortizations in full.

Free land distribution is one of the main features of the GARB as this is the essence of social justice. Dela Rosa even decries the meager budget allocated to CARP without mentioning that billions of pesos of public funds were actually used to compensate despotic landgrabbers or have been lost to bureaucratic corruption and “support service” scams.

Support packages have supposedly resulted to improvements in beneficiaries’ incomes as the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) reports, but just a look at the situation of farm workers in the Aquino-Cojuangco’s Hacienda Luisita reveals how completely bogus the CARP is.

Cory Aquino’s CARP provided for the non-land transfer scheme Stock Distribution Option (SDO) which made farmworkers “stockholders” with slave wages of Php 9.50 per payday at the Hacienda Luisita, Inc (HLI). In 2012, the Supreme Court (SC) revoked the HLI’s oppressive SDO. The SDO, however, is still in effect in a dozen haciendas in Negros and elsewhere affecting thousands of farmworkers up to this day.

Almost three years after the SC’s landmark decision for total land distribution in Luisita, only 4,099 out of the 6,453-hectare estate have been allocated for distribution. The DAR’s issuance of belated notices of coverage (NOCs) proved useless as the Aquino-Cojuangcos employed brute force to evict farmers in areas supposedly “not covered by the SC ruling.”

Majority of Luisita beneficiaries awarded CLOAs meanwhile, have now fallen prey to illicit leaseback contracts or aryendo brokered by dummies to maintain the Aquino-Cojuangcos’ control over sugarcane production. These contracts are akin to agribusiness venture agreements (AVA) or corporative schemes then promoted alongside the SDO and now being institutionalized by the current Aquino government.

AVAs legitimize landgrabbing and exploitation of farmworkers in favor of landlords and agribusiness TNCs. Private sector “assistance” – i.e. monopoly control – is promoted to substitute for the state’s obligation to provide support services. The SDO and AVAs make a complete mockery of agrarian reform’s aim to transfer ownership and control of agricultural lands to the tillers. As “beneficiaries” of CARP, farmworkers continue to endure landlessness and slave wages as the poorest of the rural poor.

The CARP must now be completely junked along with destructive neoliberal schemes such as the SDO and AVAs. Agrarian reform advocates must rethink their position supporting the pestilence called CARP.

The GARB, with its aim to break up the monopoly of a few landowners and foreign control of agricultural lands, must now be enacted to put an end to feudal and semi-feudal exploitation in the Philippine countryside. Genuine land redistribution must be attended with a holistic program of support services that will empower the peasantry politically, nurture their productive strength and carry the spirit of true cooperativism. Agrarian reform must also be integrated with a program of national industrialization as key to genuine national development.

 

RANMIL ECHANIS

Deputy Secretary General

Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA)

 

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