The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) last Wednesday distributed 1,721.2 hectares of private land to farmer-beneficiaries in Quezon province, including portions of the biggest landholding in the Bondoc Peninsula that previous administrations had failed to touch due to landlord resistance and faulty land registration system.
DAR Secretary Virgilio delos Reyes personally handed over the Certificates of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs) to 807 beneficiaries, who admitted that they had already given up hope of owning the land they till after more than 20 years of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
The CLOA distribution in the far-flung municipality of Mulanay has been described by non-government organizations as the biggest farmland for disposal under the Aquino administration.
The historic event was also witnessed by Secretaries Proceso Alcala of the Department of Agriculture and Joel Rocamora of the National Anti-Poverty Commission as well as Chairperson Etta Rosales of the Commission on Human Rights.
The private lands distributed to farmers were situated in eight municipalities of Quezon’s Bondoc Peninsula namely: San Narciso, San Francisco, San Andres, Mulanay, Catanauan, Pitogo, Unisan and Buenavista.
The private properties distributed include the 480-hectare portion of Hacienda Villa Reyes that was subdivided to 276 farmers.
“I am confirming the observation of non-government organizations: this is the biggest landholding distributed to date under the Aquino Administration,” Delos Reyes said.
“But possibly by June this year, we will be distributing the biggest landholding ever: the Hacienda Luisita,” he added.
Delos Reyes said the successful implementation of agrarian reform in Bondoc Peninsula was a product of convergence among CARP-implementing agencies in partnership with non-government organizations including the Quezon Association for Rural Development and Democratization Services (QUARDDS), the Building Bridges for Peace (BPP)-Philippine Coalition for the International Court of Justice and KATARUNGAN/RIGHTS Network.
“I congratulate our field employees in the DAR for their tireless and fearless efforts to have these landholdings covered under CARP,” Delos Reyes said. “But we could have never done this without the support of the NGO community,” he added.
According to QUARDDS and BPP, landholdings claimed by the Reyes family in the municipalities of Buenavista, San Narciso and San Andres have an estimated area of 10,000 hectares with more or less 2,000 families of tenants, settlers and occupants.
The crown jewel, Hacienda Villa Reyes, cover three barangays and around 25 sitios. It cuts across the boundary of San Narciso and San Andres.
Due to the chaotic ownership documentation, however, only a little more than 1,200 hectares of titled lands claimed by the Reyes family were subjected to compulsory acquisition under CARP.
The rest were classified as untitled timberlands, lands covered by SIFMA (Socialized Industrial Forest Management Agreement), lands with pending judicial application and lands with homestead and free patent applications.
Delos Reyes said the agrarian reform breakthrough in the Bondoc Peninsula marked the first successful joint undertaking of the DAR and the Farmers’ and Landless Rural Workers Council (FLRW) of the National Anti-Poverty Commission.
The DAR and the FLRW, which represents 25 major farmers’ federations, has signed a covenant that binds them to work double time to expedite land distribution in 40 provinces nationwide.
The joint undertaking between DAR and NAPC is estimated to deliver more or less 70 percent of the total Land Acquisition and Distribution (LAD) target of the Department benefitting an estimated 300,000 agrarian reform beneficiaries.
The covenant is the result of a consensus drawn from CARPer assessments conducted in November last year by the NAPC-FLRW where a series of dialogues with the DAR identified areas of cooperation.
Roy Mahinay Sr., a representative of the NAPC-FLRW, said the assessment conducted prior to the signing of the covenant resulted in the identification of priority provinces where the backlogs on agrarian reform were high.
In a statement, the NAPC-FLRW said: “Many secretaries have gone through the DAR but the problems have not been solved because they are not within the jurisdiction of the DAR secretary."
“Having new leadership at the DAR will not facilitate the completion of CARPer but will slow it down and hinder its completion,” the group said, explaining that a new secretary will have to study and do it all in one year and fo