DAR reports 88.6% of land distributed, Sec Mariano asks, Why are farmers still poor?

Despite the fact that almost 85 percent or 4,802 million hectares-about 88.6% of 5,415 million hectares-have been distributed to 2,790 agrarian reform beneficiaries, newly-appointed DAR chief Rafael Mariano remains skeptical about how the agrarian reform program was implemented.

"Mahigit 28 taon mula nang ipatupad ang Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program o CARP, wala pa ring malinaw na indikasyon ng pag-alwan ng buhay ng ating mga magsasaka. [More than 28 years have passed after the implementation of CARP, still, there are no indications that the life of the Filipino tenant-farmer has improved]," said Mariano.

Mariano added that the agriculture and agrarian reform sectors remain the lowest contributor to GDP at only 9.49% in the first quarter of 2016.

The Philippines, according to Mariano, is one of the biggest net importer of food products amounting to one billion dollars annually. "Sinasabayan pa ito ng problema sa land use conversion, na nagdudulot ng pagliit ng ating agricultural lands, na direkta namang nakaaapekto sa ating food security [This has been compounded by land conversion, which has resulted in decreasing agricultural lands, which in turn has adversely affected our food security]."

Mariano further stressed that DAR field reports indicate that farmers cooperatives are being "duped" by former landowners into forming business ventures that only worsen the economic condition of these farmers.

One glaring case according to Mariano is the business venture offered by Hacienda Luisita to its farmers. "Nadoble pa ang kita ng mga dating landowners, na-compensate na sila, kumita pa sila sa business venture [Only the landowner profited from this arrangement. They were not only compensated, but they also profited from the business venture]," Mariano said.

Mariano mentioned that DAR has yet to fully investigate the ramifications of why farmers are still poor despite the large coverage of agrarian reform.

He said he believes that behind these numbers is a collusion between and among landlord-oligarchs. "At the end of the day we will go back to the issue of oligarchy and why there is a need for a genuine agrarian reform law," he said.

In the House budget hearing, Mariano offered a lower DAR budget for 2017. Mariano recommended a total of 10.144 B pesos for 2017, down by 2.4% compared with 10.4B pesos in 2016. Mariano said there is a marked decrease on the Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) allocation, which is down from ?6.4 billion in FY 2016 to ?4.3 billion in FY 2017.

The reduction in the MOOE budget is brought about by reductions in cost parameters and targets for land tenure services and agrarian legal services, as well as the ending of two foreign-assisted projects. "Kailangan sakto lang para mawala ang korapsyon [The budget needs to be exact to eliminate corruption]," Mariano concluded.

Source: Philippine Information Agency

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