It was the late President Corazon “Cory” Aquino who institutionalized the distribution of land to small landless farmers as a policy through the enactment of Republic Act 6657, or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), 25 years ago. It was the centerpiece of her administration’s social legislative agenda.
Unfortunately, Hacienda Luisita also epitomized the failure of the CARP because of the many controversies and obstacles surrounding efforts to have it parceled out to its tenant farmers.
Indeed, over the years, it has been used as a glaring example of how big feudal landlords with economic and political power are the first to refuse redistributing their surplus land among their landless tenants. Critics have been saying that, for as long as the vastly landed powerful politicians in government refuse to follow the agrarian-reform program, nothing will become of it and it will always be one of those laws that only looks good on paper.
Despite all the flaws in the CARP’s implementation, we, however, believe in the law’s objective to help small landless farmers attain economic self-sufficiency.
Cory’s son, President Aquino, has the opportunity to complete land distribution under his term and erase the underserved blot on his mother’s legacy that was left by Hacienda Luisita’s pending controversies.
On Monday last week DAR officials started distributing the Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOAs) to 597 qualified farmer-beneficiaries of 10 barangays in Hacienda Luisita.
The DAR has filed the CLOAs of about 5,800 qualified farmer-beneficiaries with the Register of Deeds.
Each beneficiary received over 6,600 square meters of land in the sugar plantation. Under the law, beneficiaries would need to pay amortization for 30 years.
The Aquino administration still has to complete the distribution of over a million hectares of agricultural land nationwide to achieve the government’s extended CARP target.
Of course, the agrarian-reform program’s success doesn’t end with just giving away land titles to small landless farmers. Possessing land alone will not solve the problems of peasants in the countryside.
The government must also help them develop productivity plans; get credit for their farms for the purchase of seeds, fertilizers and other equipment; market their produce; and acquire good farming techniques from cooperatives and agricultural schools. It must also fill the gaps in agricultural infrastructure, especially in irrigation and farm-to-market roads.
In short, the government must help the CARP beneficiaries become successful farmer-entrepreneurs. It must preach the gospel that farming is where the money is and make the country’s mostly old and poor farmers believe in it because it is true. This will encourage more people, especially young people, to take up farming and to see agriculture as a worthwhile entrepreneurial venture. Only then could agrarian reform truly help alleviate poverty and improve food security in the country.