Bicam okays inclusion of "seasonal" farmers as CARP beneficiaries but as last priority

June 9, 2009 12:05 pm 

By Lilybeth G. Ison

MANILA, June 9 — The bicameral conference committee approved on Tuesday a controversial provision in the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) with the inclusion of "seasonal" farmers as agrarian reform beneficiaries.

Senators and congressmen met today in a bicameral conference committee to reconcile their differences on the proposed five-year extension of the CARP implementation.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, principal author of House Bill No. 4077, in his statement at the start of the bicameral conference committee meeting, said members of the House of Representatives are willing to accept "reasonable" modification of the measure with the Senate.

For instance, he cited the Senate version of the P147- billion allocation for the five-year implementation of the program as compared to the House version of P100 billion.

Lagman said the House is willing to round-off to P150 billion the funding to cover the entire period of CARP extension.

Both the Senate and the House agreed on the provision that the "compulsory acquisition" scheme and distribution of all agricultural lands should be restored.

Under the consolidated version of the CARP bill, land acquisition and distribution shall be completed by June 30, 2014 on a province-by-province basis.

Both Chambers of Congress also agreed to ban conversion of all irrigated and irrigable lands to other uses to protect and prevent depletion of agricultural lands.

However, senators and congressmen were in disagreement on the issue of who are considered as qualified beneficiary under the program as the House version of the said provision stated that only "regular" farmworkers or those who are actually tilling the lands can be considered as agrarian reform beneficiaries.

This provision of the House version on CARP disqualified the so-called seasonal farmers or the "sakadas" as CARP beneficiaries and therefore could not be given land.

Cebu Rep. Pablo Garcia strongly opposed the inclusion of seasonal farmers as CARP beneficiaries.

He maintained that "only regular farmworkers" should be considered as qualified agrarian reform beneficiaries.

But, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. stood firm that seasonal farmers should be included as agrarian reform beneficiaries as they too till the land during planting and harvest season.

The bicameral conference committee finally agreed that seasonal farmers could be considered as CARP beneficiaries but as last priority and/or provided the farmer beneficiary "waived" his/her right to own land.

Malacanang has certified as priority the passage of the CARP extension measure as it expires on June 30 this year.

If the bicameral conference committee agrees on a final version of the bill, Congress could either request for a special session to ratify the measure or the committee could simply put a retroactive provision by making the law effective starting July 1, 2009. (PNA)

scs/LGI

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