The Current States of the Land Reform Implementation in the Philippines Essay

The Agricultural Land Reform Code (RA 3844) was a major Philippine land reform law enacted in 1963 under President Diosdado Macapagal. It abolished tenancy and established a leasehold system in which farmers paid fixed rentals to landlords, rather than a percentage of harvest. It also established the Land Bank of the Philippines to help with land reform, particularly the purchase of agricultural estates for division and resale to small landholders, and the purchase of land by the agricultural lessee.

While the law was a significant advance over previous legislation, though the bill was weakened by numerous amendments imposed by Congress, which was dominated by landlords. It was also weakened by the failure of Congress to allocate necessary funds for effective implementation of the law. The act has been further amended several times subsequent to becoming law by later legislation. The Provision

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The main provisions of the Agricultural Land Reform Code were: * To establish and encourage the formation of family-sized farms as the basis for Philippine agriculture * To improve the lives of farmers by liberating them from harmful practices such as illegal interest rates * To encourage greater productivity and increase income of small farmers * To apply labor laws equally regardless of status * To provide a land settlement program and promote equitable distribution of land Agrarian Reform: A Protracted Struggle in the Philippine: The Philippines has seen over 400 uprisings – many of them land-related and peasant-led – in its long history.

The intensity of agrarian conflict in the country is rooted in a highly skewed land ownership pattern – a legacy of colonial rule ó and not coincidentally, widespread rural poverty. Poverty in the Philippines is largely rural. According to the National Statistical Coordinating Board (NSCB) in 2006, farmers and fishermen are estimated to have the highest poverty incidence among the country basic sectors (Development of Poverty Statistics for the Basic Sectors, NSCB, Feb. 2006). The fact that more than half of all rural households is absolutely landless is no mere happenstance.

The Philippine government response to the problem is the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), which it has been implementing since 1988. The CARP was conceived around the land-to-the-tiller principle and at its inception aimed to redistribute 8. 1 million hectares to landless farmers and farm workers. As of 2004, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has distributed a total of 3. 45 million hectares to 1. 975 million farmer-beneficiaries. However, the pace at which the DAR has undertaken its land acquisition and distribution (LAD) operations has slowed worryingly in the past 10 years.

Since 1994, when the DAR distributed some 434,000 hectares –DAR’s highest LAD record thus far. its accomplishments in land distribution have progressively declined. From 2000 to 2003, DAR has been able to move an average of just 110,000 hectares each year. The Philippine Congress had previously given the CARP a 10-year extension on its original 1998 deadline after the government failed to complete the transfer, particularly of privately owned agricultural lands. Then, in June 2004, the DAR announced that it would ask for another two-year extension of its 2008 deadline, to 2010, citing budgetary constraints.

Landowner resistance usually takes the form of physical harassment of CARP beneficiaries, as the case study (CARRUF: Chronicle of a Local Struggle) shows, but landlords have just as effectively exploited their media contacts and their influence with local authorities to discredit farmer beneficiaries. They have also resorted to dilatory tactics, like filing innumerable court cases to decide questions like coverage and landowner compensation, knowing fully well how long it would take the courts to settle the matter

Insufficient Budgetary Support Besides the resistance from landowners, CARP is burdened by a dwindling budget for land acquisition. The DAR recent budget allocations have allowed it to cover a mere 50,000 hectares per year despite the 100,000-hectare-per year commitment made by President Gloria Arroyo. Moreover, in March 2004 the government came under fire when it became known that it had not made any budget allocations for agrarian reform implementation. Apparently, it ntended to take the entire budget for CARP out of the Agrarian Reform Fund (ARF), which includes the recovered P38 billion ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses and is intended to fast-track the LAD process. By law, the ARF should be spent on LAD and delivery of support services to farmer-beneficiaries, and not for any other purpose. Hence, unless the government stops raiding the ARF and restores the mandatory fund allocations for CARP, it will virtually ensure the failure of its land redistribution efforts. Land Conversion and other Ways to Circumvent CARP

In CARP over 15 years of implementation, land conversion has been a source of intense conflict. There are enough legal and executive provisions prohibiting the conversion of CARP-covered agricultural lands, but more recent laws have tended to overturn these. One major law that has been pitted against CARP is a section in the 1991 Local Government Code, which allows the local government to reclassify the use of land under their jurisdiction. Many potential and actual beneficiaries of the CARP have been displaced as the result of such policy conflicts. Beneficiary-Related Issues

In some areas, particularly the large sugar-growing haciendas (plantations) in Negros Province, beneficiaries have actually refused lands awarded to them. Many sugar workers fear reprisals from their former landlords, but most of them are simply too dependent on the landowner to cut their ties. On the other hand, some beneficiaries who had taken hold of awarded land have committed a number of violations that put their tenure at risk. The most prominent of these violations are nonpayment of the amortization on the land, mortgaging the land or rights to it, selling the land, subleasing it, or surrendering it to its former owner.

Erring beneficiaries claim that they had been forced to resort to such money-making schemes to cope with poverty and family emergencies. Some Lessons from Past Struggles * Strong people organizations are key. As the case of CARRUF has shown (See box article), strong people organizations are indispensable to the success of agrarian reform efforts. Alliance-building is the next step. Even strong people organizations need extensive linkages with groups at the community, national and international levels to buttress their case. The broader the support from outside, the better.

Hence, farmers organizations must collaborate with NGOs, the DAR, the church, and the media. These groups can use their influence with the public to mobilize support for the farmers cause. NGOs themselves should link up to push their agenda and forge a national consensus. * Real alternatives to land conversion- more persuasive than words. Proponents of land conversion use well-packaged development plans to entice local officials to do their bidding. Hence, it is a major challenge for agrarian reform advocates to counter with equally persuasive alternatives that emphasize equity, food security and environmental integrity.

They must be able to sell the idea of building small food-sufficient, family-size, diversified and integrated farms that are linked to an agro-industrial component in place of putting up shopping malls, golf courses or luxury housing. * NGOs must acquire new skills and tools. A retooling of NGO skills to promote agribusiness is necessary so that they may facilitate the growth of the new owner cultivators into agricultural entrepreneurs. NGOs must also learn the language of business and local government in order to negotiate more effectively on behalf of and for the benefit of farmers