Position Paper On H.B. 114 And H.B. 3051

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news national 2 pix 1 march 3 2017This is the Department of Agrarian Reform’s (DAR) position on H.B. 114 and H.B. 3051 both entitled “An Act Mandating The Completion Of The Land Acquisition and Distribution (LAD) Component Of The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) pursuant to RA 6657, otherwise known as the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL), as amended.

Consistent and in line with the present Thrust and Policy Direction of the Department to protect the farmers, promote their rights and welfare, and contribute to rural development and food security, the Department wishes to convey that the pending legislative measures, which merely seeks for the continuation of the land acquisition and distribution (LAD) component of CARL, as amended by Republic Act 9700 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reform (CARPER), do not basically address and rectify the inherent defects, flaws and loopholes of the existing agrarian reform laws, primarily CARP Law (RA 6657) and CARPER Law (RA 9700).
In retrospect, in the year 2008 and 2009, during the deliberation on the CARPER law, the proponents argued that there is a need to extend the land acquisition and distribution component of CARL for five (5) years. At that time, the argument was CARPER will be able to cover and distribute 1.2 million hectares of lands that were not placed under CARP coverage.  In 2014, five years after CARPER, the record of the Department shows that CARPER failed to deliver its promise.  As stated by House Bill 114, to date, more than six hundred thousand (600,000) hectares remained undistributed and more than two hundred thousand (200,000) hectares were not issued notices of coverage.

Aside from the non-distribution of these lands to the farmers, those who were already issued Certificates of Land Ownership Awards (CLOA) like the farmers in Sanson Estate, in Sara, Iloilo, the farmers in Nemesio Tan Estate, in the Province of Capiz, the farmers in Hacienda Matias, in the Province of Quezon, the farmworkers in landholdings covered by CARL but were placed under various non-land transfer schemes or agribusiness venture agreements (AVAs) particularly in Mindanao, have not been installed unto their lands.  Just recently, several farmers who are agrarian reform beneficiaries under CARP and CARPER have been murdered.    

Thus, it has been more than twenty nine (29) years since CARP and approximately eight (8) years since CARPER, but the problems faced by the farmers and agrarian unrest still subsist.

The Philippines has 14.1 million hectares of agricultural lands. 9.9 million hectares of which are farmlands while 4 million more or less are devoted to agriculture derivative production. 

In 1989, of the 14.1 million hectares, CARP’s target for distribution was 10.3 million hectares in 10 years.

In June 2016, the Department reported that only 4,726,604 hectares had been acquired and distributed to 2,770,644 farmer-beneficiaries. The data include those lands distributed under Presidential Decree 27 which was issued by President Ferdinand Marcos in 1972.

Clearly, the 4.7 M hectares which have supposedly been covered by PD 27 and CARL did not even constitute half of the total target for distribution in 1989.

It is, therefore, not enough that the Department is given additional period to issue notices of coverage or compulsory acquisition of agricultural lands. CARPER failed. And, with due respect, the Department would not allow that history will repeat itself.

Thus, while the Department expresses its utmost gratitude to Committee on Agrarian Reform of the House of Representatives and the proponents of the two bills - House Bill No. 114 which was introduced by Rep. Teddy Brawner Baguilat and House Bill No. 3051 which was introduced by Rep. Kaka Bag-ao, Rep. Gabriel Bordado and Rep. Tomasito Villarin - in proposing for the grant of a new authority to the Department to issue Notices of Coverage and to accept voluntary offers of lands by the landowners for two (2) years, we submit, with due respect, that the same is not enough. 

It is necessary that the Department supports measures that would ensure acquisition of additional lands, both public and private, for free distribution to the farmers. The law must also ensure their installation to those lands, protect their security of tenure, and ensure the improvement of land production and their well-beings. The law must also help ensure and contribute to the attainment of food security, rural development, and over-all progress of the nation.

In the same vein, the law should provide corrective measures to the problems and concerns relative to the 4,726,604 hectares that had been supposedly acquired and distributed to 2,770,644 agrarian reform beneficiaries. The law must review the exemption and exclusion of vast tracts of agricultural lands by CARP and CARPER and if still possible place them under agrarian reform coverage. The measure should also address the gradual decrease of agricultural lands due to land use conversion, both legal and illegal.

The two house bills did not provide for such measures.

Section 2 of the subject HBs, which is the essence thereof only states:

“Section 2. Section 30 of Republic Act No. 9700 is hereby amended to read as follows :

“Section 30. Issuance of Notices of Coverage, acceptance of voluntary offer to sell and resolution of cases and/or proceedings - the DAR shall continue to issue notices of coverage and accept voluntary offers to sell by landowners of agricultural lands covered by Republic Act No. 6657, as amended within two years from the effectivity of this act. Such issuance of Notice of Coverage or acceptance of Voluntary Offer to Sell starts the proceedings in the implementation of the provisions of Republic Act No. 6657, as amended.

Any case and/or proceeding, as initiated by the issuance of a Notice of Coverage or Acceptance of a Voluntary Offer to Sell involving the implementation of the provisions of Republic Act No. 6657, as amended, which may remain pending two years after the effectivity of this act shall be allowed to proceed to its finality and be executed even beyond such date.”

While the bills seemed to remedy the failure of CARPER to cover landholdings which in 2009 constitute the land acquisition and distribution (LAD) balance of RA 6657, the Department submits that the bills may not be adequate, and will not include those landholdings which have not been issued Notices of Coverage (NOC) between June 30, 2014 and until the effectivity of law, if the bills becomes a law.

The Department wishes to point out that the program of distributing lands to farmer-beneficiaries continued even after June 30, 2014. Section 30 of RA 9700 states that:

“Any case and/or proceeding involving the implementation of the provisions of Republic Act No. 6657, as amended, which may remain pending on June 30, 2014 shall be allowed to proceed to its finality and be executed even beyond such date.”

Thus, those landholdings which have already been issued Notices of Coverage (NOCs) or with proceedings for coverage before June 30, 2014 are continuously subject to distribution to qualified farmer beneficiaries. 

Records of the Department show that there are 259,327 hectares which have been issued NOCs before June 30, 2014. Moreover 134,561 hectares have pending petitions for coverage.  

DAR record further shows that only 88,643 hectares, from the beginning balance of 1.2 million hectares in 2009, have not been issued NOC’s and with no petitions for coverage.

If the house bills will be passed into law, then it will only cover the 88,643 hectares which have not been issued NOCs and with no petitions for coverage.

If the purpose of the house bills is to place under coverage those which have not been touched by CARP or CARPER, then why not just adopt a new law that would provide for much comprehensive LAD coverage and reasonable period of implementation? Why limit the LAD component to those which have escaped the coverage of CARP or CARPER? Why provide for only two (2) years LAD implementation? Why limit and not expand the agrarian reform program coverage?

Thus, it is the position of the Department that instead of extending for another two (2) years the LAD component of CARP, the Congress should enact a new, comprehensive, and genuine agrarian reform law which is thorough going and truly distributive that would address the various problems on LAD, security of tenure, and support services to the farmers. 

Considering that almost 5 million hectares have not been touched or placed under the agrarian reform program, HB 114 and HB 3051 will not be enough to ensure that those lands which have not been placed under CARP coverage will be acquired and distributed to our landless farmers.

The Department advocates for the passage of a law that would not just extend the LAD component of CARP but that would place the remaining agricultural lands, both public and private, into the agrarian reform program. The law must examine and include into its ambit those lands previously exempted or excluded from agrarian reform coverages.

The law should also rectify the problems encountered and presently faced by the agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs).  Those problems include, among others the non-installation of ARBs to the awarded lands; the failure of the ARBs to pay land amortization with the Land Bank of the Philippines; the cancellation of Emancipation Patents and Certificates of Land Ownership Awards (CLOA); the transfer of awarded lands to thirds persons; the eviction of farmers from the retained landholdings of the landowner; the conversion of agricultural lands into other uses thereby threatening the country’s food security and self-sufficiency.

DAR also advocates for a passage of a law that would reclassify inalienable lands of the public domain, that is, timber or forest land and mineral lands, which are now being tilled by the farmers into agricultural land and distribute them for free to the actual tillers and occupants.

DAR also advocates for the passage of a law that would throw away the exemptions and exclusions of those lands previously exempted or excluded from agrarian reform coverage especially those cases under DOJ Opinion 44 .

Given the report of the minimal contribution of the agrarian reform program to rural development, DAR’s mandate should now be to acquire so much lands, public and private, for free distribution to the farmers. 

DAR also advocates for the passage of a law that ensures that the farmers are not evicted from the agricultural land they are tilling whether the farmer is an agrarian reform beneficiary, a leaseholder, or plain possessor and occupant of an agricultural land.

DAR also desires for Congress to pass a law that would correct or rectify the problems, defects, and issues encountered by previous agrarian reform laws mentioned above which resulted to a failed agrarian reform program. 

In particular, DAR calls for the passage of a law that would distribute, for free, agricultural lands to the farmers but respecting the rights of landowners to due process and just compensation.

Given the fact that ARBs could hardly pay land amortizations which would result to foreclosure of mortgage by Land Bank of the Philippines, it is now high time to free the farmers from the burden of paying amortization. They can use the payment for amortization into making their agricultural lands productive.

The law must also see to it that the lands covered by the agrarian reform program should not be made as security for the loans incurred by farmers. The mortgage on the land should be declared illegal. That way, in case of non-payment, mortgage of the lands will not be subject to foreclosure and will remain at the hands of the farmers.

The law must also prohibit non-land transfer schemes in the form of agribusiness venture agreements (AVA), stock distribution options, joint ventures, production and profit sharing and the like.

The recent review of these agreements and non-land transfer schemes shows that they are detrimental to the interest and welfare of the farmers.

The law must also address the gradual decrease of agricultural lands due to rampant and unchecked land use conversions. Prime agricultural lands, irrigated or irrigable rice-lands should not be negotiable for conversion and that should be true even if the project is a government initiated project. This is necessary to ensure the country’s food self-sufficiency and security.

Lastly, the law must provide for sufficient support services to the farmers especially for the development of the lands awarded to them and to provide them sustainable livelihood and enterprise development.

Overall, HB 114 and HB 3051, regrettably, would appear as not responsive to those needed policy measures to uplift the lives of our farmers.

Instead, DAR strongly endorses the passage and approval of House Bill No. 555 otherwise known as the Genuine Agrarian Reform Act of 2016 (GARB).

DAR advocates for the passage of HB No. 555 as it would not just extend the LAD component of CARP but it would place the remaining agricultural lands, both public and private, within the coverage of the agrarian reform program. HB No. 555 would also include into its ambit those lands previously exempted or excluded from agrarian reform coverage.

H.B. No. 555 would also rectify the problems encountered and presently faced by the agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs). Those problems, include, among others the non-installation of ARBs to the awarded lands; the failure of the ARBs to pay land amortization with the Land Bank of the Philippines; the cancellation of Emancipation Patents and Certificates of Land Ownership Awards (CLOA); the transfer of awarded lands to third persons; the eviction of farmers from the retained landholdings of the landowner; the conversion of agricultural lands into other uses thereby threatening the country’s food security and self-sufficiency. H.B. No. 555 would also invalidate the exemptions and exclusions of those lands previously exempted or excluded from agrarian reform coverage especially those cases under DOJ Opinion 44. H.B. No. 555 would also ensure that the farmers are not evicted from agricultural land they are tilling regardless whether they are ARBs, leaseholders, or plain possessors or occupants of agricultural lands.

Most importantly, H.B. No. 555 would implement the free distribution of agricultural lands in favor of the farmers and at the same time would respect the rights of the landowners to due process and just compensation. Given the fact that ARBs could hardly pay land amortizations which would result to foreclosure of mortgage by Land Bank of the Philippines, it is now high time to free the farmers from the burden of paying any amortization. The farmers can use the payment for the amortization into making their agricultural lands productive.

Other highlights of H.B. No. 555 are as follows: it provides that the lands covered by the agrarian reform program should not be made as security for the loans incurred by farmers. The mortgage on the land would be declared illegal. This means that in the event of non-payment, the lands distributed to the farmers would not be subject to any foreclosure and would remain with the farmers; it prohibits non-land transfer schemes in the form of agribusiness venture agreements (AVA), stock distribution options, joint venture, production and profit sharing and the like; it addresses the gradual decrease of agricultural lands due to land use conversion. Prime agricultural lands, irrigated or irrigable rice-lands should not be negotiable for conversion and that should be true even if the project is a government initiated project. This is necessary to ensure and as a major component for food self-sufficiency and security; it provides for sufficient support services to the farmers especially for the development of the lands awarded to them and to provide them sustainable livelihood and enterprise development.

The pertinent provisions of H.B. No. 555 are as follows:

“Section 5. Scope and coverage-This Act shall cover all agricultural lands in the country. It shall include:

a.all private agricultural lands, regardless of crops planted and tenancy relations;

b.all lands operated as agribusiness plantations by transnational corporations (TNCs), commercial farms, agricultural estates including those which are presently under various schemes considered as alternative to land transfer, and aquaculture, pasture, cattle and livestock farms which are not actually, directly and exclusively used for livestock, poultry and swine as of the effectivity of this Act;

c.all agricultural lands already distributed by Presidential Decree No. 27 and Republic Act 6657, as amended by RA 9700, but have passed into the ownership, possession or control of persons or corporations which are not qualified beneficiaries as mentioned in this Act, including lands distributed but placed under various schemes and modes of accessing the land to foreign and local corporations;

d.all lands that have been declared by various Presidential Decrees, Presidential Proclamations, other laws and issuances as part of reserved or devoted areas for tourism development, military reservations, human settlements projects, special economic development authorities, export processing zones, regional industrial centers, or special economic zones but have remained unutilized and undeveloped or agricultural in use or presently occupied and tilled by farmers on the date of the effectivity of this Act.

In the case of military reservations, the determination of developed portion and the segregation of undeveloped lands shall be based on the actual use for military installations or facilities such as camps, barracks, ammunition depots, and perimeter outposts.

In the case of lands affected by public sector development projects located in the reservations of special economic development authorities, regional industrial centers, special economic zones, where such development projects have not started, such lands shall be included in land distribution;

e.all lands that have been reclassified as commercial, industrial or residential lands by local government units and other government line departments and agencies but have remained undeveloped according to their legislated or executive classifications, agricultural in use, or presently occupied and tilled by farmers upon the effectivity of this Act;

f.all agricultural lands with approved land use conversion authority but have remained undeveloped and all agricultural lands with pending land use conversion applications on the date of the effectivity of this Act;

In the case of agricultural lands with approved land use conversion authority, this Act hereby declares the revocation of their conversion authority. If the development of the land has not started, the entire landholding shall be covered by this Act; otherwise, only the undeveloped portion shall be covered. In the case of lands with pending land use conversion applications, this Act hereby declares such applications as terminated and denied.

g.all lands that are part of the reservations of state colleges and universities but predominantly used for commercial agricultural production, or presently occupied and tilled by farmers, upon the effectivity of this Act; and lands of private schools which are not actually used for educational purposes and have remained undeveloped or agricultural in use or presently occupied and tilled by farmers;


h.all agricultural lands which had been tilled by farmers and the subject of their land distribution claims but were taken away from them by the government or the landowner for use or lease to foreign institutions;

i.all lands under agricultural cultivation or use by farmers within timber and mineral lands including those with existing concessions and exploration agreements shall be reclassified as agricultural lands upon the effectivity of this Act and subject to distribution

j.all government-owned lands that are agricultural in use or presently occupied and tilled by farmers or have remained undeveloped, including those portions in excess of their use as penal colonies; and all public agricultural lands and alienable and disposable lands of the public domain that have remained undistributed, including settlement areas and foreshore lands presently occupied by farmers, settlers, and fishers; and

k.all private and public lands that have remained idle and abandoned and suitable for agricultural use.

Xxx

V. Free Land Distribution

SECTION 8. Free land distribution – The lands covered by this Act shall be distributed at no cost to farmer beneficiaries. The central goal of this Act is free land distribution based on social justice.

SECTION 9. Writing off of amortization on lands distributed under Presidential Decree No. 27 and Republic Act No. 6657, as amended by Republic Act No. 9700 – The amortization schedule or any balance thereof, including the interests, of lands already distributed under Presidential Decree No. 27 and Republic Act No. 6657, as amended by Republic Act No.9700, are hereby declared as written off. The farmer-beneficiaries of such lands shall be deemed their full owners upon the effectivity of this Act.

SECTION 10. Restoration to farmer-beneficiaries of lands under cancelled Certificates of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAS), Certificate of Land Transfers (CLTs) and Emancipation Patents (EPs) or with pending cancellation proceedings due to non-payment –The lands covered by Certificates of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs), Certificate of Land Transfers (CLTs), and Emancipation Patents (EPs) already cancelled due to the failure of farmer-beneficiaries to amortize, where such lands have not yet been awarded to other qualified farmer-beneficiaries, are hereby restored to the ownership and possession of original farmer-beneficiaries who shall be deemed full owners of the land upon the effectivity of this Act. If such lands were already awarded to other qualified farmer-beneficiaries, the award shall be recognized and the amortization schedule for the land or the balance thereof are hereby likewise declared as written off such that the rights of full ownership over such lands shall devolve upon the subsequent qualified farmer-beneficiaries in accordance with Section 9 of this Act.

All pending cancellation proceedings of CLOAS, CLTs and EPs due to the failure of farmers to amortize their lands are hereby declared terminated and resolved in favor of farmer-beneficiaries. The lands covered by such CLOAs, CLTs and EPs shall be immediately restored to the ownership and possession of farmer-beneficiaries who shall be deemed full owners of the land in accordance with Section 9 of this Act.

Section 11. Issuance of Title of Full Emancipation – All farmer-beneficiaries under this Act shall be issued, at no cost, a Title of Full Emancipation.”xxx

DAR would like to convey, to the Honorable members of the Committee, the sentiment that the proposed Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill should now be acted upon by the Committee. While the grant of a fresh mandate to acquire lands is truly appreciated by DAR, the same however covers only the factor of time of acquiring lands. The pending bills do not consider other aspects of agrarian reform. On the other hand, the pending House Bill 555 covers several substantive provisions which will truly alleviate the farmers long suffering from the bondage to the soil. This would resolve the fundamental problem of landlessness and abolish all remnants of feudalism and other types of unjust tenurial arrangements in the countryside. 

RESPECTFULLY SUBMITTED.

March 1, 2017, Quezon City


Signed

RAFAEL V. MARIANO

Secretary