Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano is determined to defend and assert the rights of farmers by lobbying to enact an agrarian reform program that would acquire more lands, public and private, for distribution for free or at least cost to the farmers.
Mariano said this is in line with the present administration's thrust and policy direction to protect the rights and welfare and ensure the security of tenure of farmers without depriving the landowners of their right to due process of law and to just compensation.
"The control of agrarian reform lands must always be in the hands of the farmer-beneficiaries of the program," Sec. Ka Paeng said.
Records at the DAR shows that 4,726,604 hectares had been acquired and distributed to 2,970,644 agararian reform beneficiaries. However there is insufficient data as to whether those lands still remain in the hands of the farmers and the conditions of farmer beneficiaries.
He said despite the extension of the Comprehensive Agrariann Reform Program (CARP), the land acquisition and distribution balance is 621,000 hectares.
"There is an urgent need to review and retool the existing agrarian reform program to protect the rights and welfare of farmers and ensure food security," he said
Mariano said the new law should also consider the coverage of lands previously exempted or excluded from agrarian reform coverage.
The new law should rectify or correct the flaws, defects and problems encountered by the previous agrarian reform program.
Mariano explained that the new law should also reclassify inalienable lands of the public domain which are now being tilled by the farmers into agricultural and distribute them for free to the actual tillers and occupants.
DAR's authority to distribute more lands stopped after the publication of Notices of Coverage (NOCs) of lands acquired under CARP lapsed on June 30, 2014.
DAR cannot distribute lands unless landowners have been notified that their lands are covered under agrarian reform through publication of NOCs.
House Bill (HB) 555 known as Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) was re-filed by Anakpawis partylist Rep. Ariel "Ka Ayik" Casilao. GARB proposes free land distribution to all qualified beneficiaries, a radical shift from RA 6657 and from other previous agrarian reform laws in the country.
The bill was first filed in the 14th Congress by the late labor leader and Anakpawis Representative Crispin B. Beltran. It was re-filed in the 15th and 16th Congresses by peasant leaders and Anakpawis representatives Rafael V. Mariano and Fernando Hicap respectively.
HB 555 was to further push the demand for genuine agrarian reform and the realization of the Filipino peasantry’s emancipation from the centuries-old feudal bondage from the soil.
When enacted, the new agrarian reform law shall cover all agricultural lands, thus practically rendering land conversion illegal and revoking all previous unjust decrees on exemption and exclusion.
GARB is likewise to institutionalize a thoroughgoing program of state support and subsidy to land reform beneficiaries in all the important aspects of agricultural production, including the promotion of cooperativization.