LEGAZPI CITY—After 27 long years, the 149 agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) in Pili, Camarines Sur finally occupied their government-awarded lands after the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) installed them as rightful owners of the land.
DAR Camarines Sur II agrarian reform chief Maria Gracia R. Sales, said the farmer-beneficiaries have now taken possession of the 81.85-hectare agricultural land in Barangay Cadlan, Pili town after a lifelong administrative and judicial fight with its former owner, the Manubay Agro-Industrial and Development Corporation (MANDECOR).
“The final step in the land acquisition and distribution process is the installation of these ARBs on their Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP)-awarded lands,” she said.
Sales said Land Tenure Services personnel at the provincial and municipal levels had worked tirelessly for the past twenty-seven years to bring the activity to a successful conclusion.
Under the government’s agrarian reform law, the DAR is mandated to acquire public and private agricultural lands and distribute them to tenants, farmers, farmworkers, or other tillers who meet the qualifications to become ARBs.
DAR acquired the land under the CARP in 1994 but pending cases and strong resistance of landowners contributed to the sluggish processes.
"I am extremely proud of all of our employees, including the PNP officers, ARB leaders, and barangay officials, who selflessly assisted in the execution of this important activity. I hope that these ARBs will become responsible stewards of the lands that have been entrusted to them. I hope that they take good care of their lands and keep them productive," said Sales.
Sheriff Vincent John Belleza said there are significant risks in implementing the plan because of strong opposition from the landowners, despite the writ of Installation issued by the Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (PARAD).
"Fear is a natural reaction in high-risk situations, like this. However, I feel it is my moral responsibility to ensure that justice is done to the farmer-beneficiaries,” said Belleza.
Municipal Agrarian Reform Program Officer Jemma G. Belaro was overjoyed seeing the farmers finally got their individual land titles and assigned to their respective farms and thanked the DAR personnel who worked hard to ensure the success of the endeavor.
Filled with mixed emotions, the farmers shared how the event felt like they were at last coming home from a very long journey. Almost two decades, most of them have stepped out on the property’s grounds due to intense disputes between their end and the landowners.
Farmer-leader Arturo Bismonte said “The blood and sweat of our forefathers who persevered in tilling and cultivating this soil have stained these lands. That is why are willing to sacrifice our lives to fulfill our dream of claiming this land as our own.”
“We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to DAR Camarines Sur II people for sticking with us through the tough years. Their perseverance paid off, and we have witnessed the final stage of the CARP process. We are indeed very happy and grateful to finally come home," Bismonte added.
The farmers received their certificates of land ownership award (CLOAs) during a formal ceremony at the Pili Covered Court, where they were also told of their obligations and duties as beneficiaries of the government’s agrarian reform program.