Installation of farmers in Hacienda Luisita completed by May–DAR exec

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business mirrorWITH 65 percent, or 4,478 of the 6,212 beneficiaries, of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) for Hacienda Luisita having been successfully installed so far, an official of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) on Wednesday expressed confidence that the agency will be able to complete the installation next month.

It has been two years since the Supreme Court (SC) issued its final and executory ruling ordering the distribution of the former Cojuangco-Aquino sugar estate to qualified beneficiaries. Agrarian Reform Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Anthony Parungao expressed confidence the DAR will be able to meet its target of distributing the lots and installing the beneficiaries of the former Cojuangco-Aquino sugar estate in the next few weeks. This despite reports of alleged harassment of survey teams deployed by the DAR in areas where the physical delineation on the ground of the beneficiaries’ CARP-awarded land by placing boundary markers or mujons are being conducted.

Paruñgao said as of April 7, a report from the DAR provincial office revealed that 5,947 farmlots, or 86.32 percent, have already been monumented. Monumenting is a land-surveying term for placing markers or mujones to mark the boundaries of a lot. Monumenting of the lots, he said, would have gone faster and resulted in more farmer-beneficiaries being installed had there been no instances of harassment of survey teams and mujons being destroyed by members of disgruntled groups. He said five persons were apprehended on April 3 while harassing a survey team that was plotting out a lot in the area. The perpetrators, allegedly members of the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala), were subsequently released pending the filing of appropriate charges, Paruñgao said.

According to the official, the act of harassment could constitute obstruction of agrarian reform. The DAR is stepping up monumenting activities within Hacienda Luisita and has added survey teams to complete the job for the rainy season, the time when farmers usually plant crops. He warned that the act of obstructing the implementation of agrarian reform prescribes a penalty of six to 12 years of imprisonment. “But the point here is every time such incidents occur, the beneficiaries are affected because they have to wait some more in order to get installed in their allocated lots,” Paruñgao said. He said the DAR’s self-imposed deadline for monumenting the lots and installing the farmer-beneficiaries, which it has reset for May, will be met unless outside forces obstruct its activities. Paruñgao said the DAR has been encouraging and assisting beneficiaries self-organize “so that DAR would be more effective and efficient in channeling support-service programs and resources.” “We are assisting the farmers in making their transition into owner-cultivators,” Paruñgao said. “We are helping them to organize themselves so that they are able to better organize farm production and marketing of their produce.”

Once established, these organizations will also make it easier for the beneficiaries to access credit because the financial institutions are more inclined to provide loans and financial support to organizations than to individual farmers, Paruñgao said.

The provincial office of the DAR has been able to assist farmer-beneficiaries create organizations in eight of the 10 barangays in Hacienda Luisita. Paruñgao said in addition to helping the farmer-beneficiaries organize themselves, the DAR has encouraged the voluntary physical grouping of contiguous lots so that scheduling of use of farming machinery such as tractors would be more rational.

In April 2012, the SC issued its ruling ordering the DAR to distribute Hacienda Luisita in lieu of the failed Stock Distribution Option that was scrapped by the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) in 2004. The PARC’s decision was contested by the Hacienda Luisita Inc. until the SC’s final and executory ruling in favor of the farmers. It took the DAR more than a year to identify 6,212 qualified beneficiaries alone. The DAR is now stepping up the land survey to put the necessary markings before it could install the farmers to their assigned farm lots.

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