Press Release
April 1, 2009


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today expressed concern that a congressional move to exempt lands newly planted with sugarcane or coconut from the coverage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program would defeat the purpose of CARP since it will greatly reduce the land areas that can be distributed to tenant-farmers

Pimentel said the leaders of Task Force Mapalad, composed of agrarian reform beneficiaries, got in touch with him to voice their objection to the reported recommendation of a Senate-House panel to exclude lands newly converted to sugar and coconut plantations from CARP.

"They feel that the exemption of vast tracts of land being converted to sugar and coconut lands will render meaningless the provision on compulsory acquisition and distribution of lands which the Senate and House of Representatives have agreed to restore," he said.

The Department of Agrarian Reform and farmers' groups had earlier said that the extension of CARP by five years will enable the government to acquire and distribute the remaining 1.3 million hectares of farmland targeted for coverage under the program. But a huge fraction of the targeted areas consists of land which their owners want to plant with sugar and coconut.

Pimentel said the exemption of those lands will also be a retrogression from the old CARP law, under which lands planted with these cash crops were included.

"If Congress is really serious about extending CARP and alleviating the plight of landless farmers, it should disregard the exemption plan," he said.

Pimentel argued that the commercial production of ethanol out of sugarcane should not be used as an excuse to exclude sugar lands from CARP. In the first place, he said not all sugar plantations will shift to ethanol production.

"I was one of the principal authors of the Bio-Fuels Act that aims to promote the use of ethanol as safe and clean fuel. But it never entertained my mind that it could be used as a ground to exempt sugar lands from land reform," he said.

He explained that the conversion of certain sugar land areas for ethanol production can still be pursued even if these are placed under CARP coverage.

The senator from Mindanao urged the DAR to hammer out a scheme in which the agrarian reform beneficiaries would agree to the joint use of sugar lands awarded to them for ethanol and other agri-business ventures under the concept of corporate and cooperative farming wherein they will be part owners or stockholders.

Such concept has been successfully tried in the 5,000-hectare sugar hacienda in Pontevedra, Negros Occidental.

Since the proposed exemption is unacceptable to farmers, Pimentel voiced fears that such controversial move will only fuel the restiveness and discontent in the countryside.

News Latest News Feed