The good news: CARP extension nears ratification

July 11, 2009 7:26 pm 

MANILA, July 11 — A tradition of the Macapagal family will live on with the inevitable signing into law of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) extension bill on August 8.

Congress, during the June 11 Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) Meeting held in Malacanang, has committed to ratify the consolidated House of Representatives and Senate versions of the social justice bill certified as urgent by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

It was on August 8, 1963 that the President’s father, former President Diosdado Macapagal, who was a son of a farmer, signed into law Republic Act 3844, otherwise known as the Agricultural Land Reform Code.

RA 3844, hailed as the most notable reform legislation and benchmark of presidential commitment to social reform, sought to emancipate Filipino farmers from the bondage of tenancy.

In 1988, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law or CARL came to life, paving the way for farmers to own the land they till.

But the CARL expired in December last year, thus the President, who wants to continue the legacy of social justice through a genuine land reform law, has certified as urgent a bill seeking a 10-year extension of the land reform law to 2018, to allow government to fully cover the remaining two million hectares that stand to benefit an additional two million farmers.

Records show that some seven million hectares have already been placed under CARP since 1988, benefitting more than four million farmers.

Congress acted less of what was expected but nevertheless passed a joint congressional resolution extending the law for six months — which was June 30, 2009.

The President who, like her father, knew that an agrarian reform law will emancipate farmers, this time wants to go further. To empower farmers to become agri- businessmen, she urged Congress to pass a stronger agrarian reform law that will not only restore the compulsory acquisition of agricultural lands from landlords but will also allow farmers to use their land as loan collateral.

Congress responded well and on the day the President delivers her last State-of–the-Nation Address on July 27, both the House of Representatives and the Senate will ratify the consolidated version of the bill.

Hence, triumph may be near the corner for farmers battling for the extension of the CARP.

The soon-to-be law allocates some P150 billion to finance the implementation of the CARP for the next five years.

The bill also prioritizes large landholdings exceeding 50 hectares and 24-50 hectares for land acquisition and distribution during the first year of extension.

It also eliminates the Voluntary Land Transfer method, which has been abused by landlords scheming to sell marginal lands at high prices, as a mode of land acquisition.

It also abolishes the notorious stock distribution option (SDO) as an acquisition option as well as makes CLOA’s (Certificate of Land Ownership and Acquisition) and Emancipation Patents (EP’s) “indefeasible,” which means once the land is registered as belonging to the land reform beneficiary, no one can say it isn’t his or hers.

The stronger CARP bill earmarks 40 percent of the P150 billion budget to support services – with one-third of this amount specifically allocated for subsidies to support the initial capital or seed money for agricultural production of new agrarian reform beneficiaries, and credit facilities in the case of existing beneficiaries and leaseholders;

Prohibition of the conversion to commercial or industrial use of irrigable and irrigated lands and automatic CARP coverage of lands targeted for conversion if the conversion plan has not been implemented after five years. (PNA)

scs/OPS/rsm

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