Agrararian Reform Secretary Rafael "Ka Paeng" Mariano promised the farmers here that he will take steps in solving their land installation problems within 15 days.
"At present we are already taking actions in resolving their issues and concerns. But after seeing and hearing them air their problems, we will devote extra time to study and step-up ways to install them [to their lands] in the soonest possible time," Mariano said.
In a farmers' dialogue organized by Monsignor Meliton Oso of the Jaro Archdiocesan Social Action Center (JASAC), more than 600 farmers urged Mariano to finally install them to their land. They said that they have been waiting for it to happen for 18 years.
A total of 6,690 agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) are still uninstalled in their land despite having CLOAs awarded by the DAR in the early 1990s. Mariano said 358 landholdings are involved covering 10,751 hectares of agricultural lands.
Twelve farmer-leaders belonging to 12 different landholdings, each told their stories and the struggles they encountered in pursuing their right to be installed in their farmlands.
Farmer Eva Alaan of Banate, Iloilo said they experienced harassment from landowners who refuse to let go of their land even if the DAR has already issued them certificates of landownership award (CLOAs).
In the province of Iloilo, installation of agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) is usually done in contentious landholdings. DAR Regional Director Gideon Umadhay Jr. said it is most often done with the police and military assistance to make sure that the activity is undertaken peacefully.
"Nowadays, the province has encountered numerous problems on installation like resistance from powerful landowners who thinks that they are being deprived of their hard-earned properties, landowners harassing farmers, conflict between and among farmer beneficiaries and even a few government officials who are unsupportive of the program whose dealings became a hindrance to the installation of the farmer-beneficiaries," explains Umadhay.
He said that issues on technical description of lands, subdivision survey and re-documentation also adds to problems faced by the farmers.
Addressing the problems
The DAR has created a technical working group who will work on installing ARBs.
"This group has already formulated effective strategies. We have advocacy initiatives, dialogues with the landowners and farmers' groups, and we have gained active support from our partner agencies and the local government officials," Umadhay said.
The DAR also tapped the Jaro Archdiocesan Social Action Center (JASAC) to facilitate the social preparations necessary for the installation of ARBs in Iloilo. Under the leadership of Msgr. Oso, JASAC's engagement will be to facilitate within the next 13 months (January 2016 to January 2017) the installation of 6,040 uninstalled agrarian reform beneficiaries.
JASAC would also help in resolving possible conflicts that may arise before, during, and after the installation activities between the ARBs and the landowners/administrators/caretakers and will resolve conflicts arising out of the farmer-beneficiaries identification process between the CLOA holders and other farmer-claimants.
"Now that I've heard and seen Ka Paeng in person, I am looking forward to a more fast-paced action from the DAR," said farmer Felomino Suarnaba of San Enrique.
Farmer Felipa Agreda from Estancia expressed his relief a(fter hearing Mariano's vow of action towards realizing their dream finally tilling the land they technically already own. "I trust Ka Paeng. Being a farmer and a farmer-leader, I know he is on our side."
Source: Philippine Information Agency