Press Release
March 8, 2010


Public officials who belong to the landed gentry should set the example in implementing true land reform by having their own haciendas distributed among their tenants, NP-NPC-LDP vice presidential candidate Loren Legarda stressed before a group of farmers and traders in Saturday in Cotabato.

"For the country's agriculture sector and farmers to be truly empowered, we need to see concrete, sincere commitment to land distribution among the farmers who deserve it," Loren said.

Previous administrations, including the current one, have not been able to fully implement the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, she pointed out. But she vowed that if elected she would pursue land distribution for farmers so that they could finally get to own what they had been working on for years now.

"Hindi pwedeng ipang-distribute natin ang lupa ng iba pero yung mga hacienda ng sariling pamilya natin ay di natin magawang ipa-land reform sa mga magsasakang halos buong buhay nang nagtatrabaho sa atin," she said.

Loren was referring to the issue of Hacienda Luisita that has been hounding Liberal Party rivals Noynoy Aquino and Mar Roxas.

"We were never landed, and I grew up with many relatives who were farmers tilling someone else's land all their lives," she said. "Alam ko kung gaano kahirap kumayod sa bukid at pagkatapos iba ang makikinabang sa ani. This has never been resolved, at least for Luisita and with many other clans in the country who continue to keep their haciendas even after the CARP was enacted in 1986."

She said that with land distribution and adequate support services while the farmers go through the transition from tenancy to land ownership, agrarian reform would succeed. The support systems are already in place. It only takes maximization of the use of these support systems, commitment to genuine devolution of resources and imaginative or creative local chief executives to make the systems work.

"Nariyan ang mga amendments sa mga batas sa lupa upang lubusan nang maisakatuparan ang Land Reform Act," she said. "Bilang pinuno ng Committee on Agriculture at ng Finance Committee in charge of agriculture ay pinupokpok ko ang mga departamento na nagpapatupad ng pagbibigay ng mga subsidyo ng Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (o AFMA) para sa mga makabagong teknolohiya sa pagtatanim upang gumanda ang ani at sa mga post-harvest facilities upang gumanda ang kita sa ani, ang masusing pag-aalaga ng mga extension workers sa ating magsasaka at mangingisda at pagsesegurado na ang ating mga pananim at mga hayop ay ligtas sa sakit upang gumanda ang kanilang paglaki at matiyak na de-kalidad ang kinakain ng ating ating mga mamamayan.

"I also look into improved provision of farm-to-market roads in the countryside to enhance our farmers' chances of having their produce sold. We need good roads to bring our produce to the market. I have also proposed provision of cash assistance to farmers in times of calamities so they themselves can decide how to alleviate their situation because they are the ones who know what to prioritize in times of emergencies to continue with better farming activities."

Loren is one of the chief authors of the amended Agri-Agra Law or RA 10000 which seeks to improve access of farmers and fisherfolk to agriculture credit. In order to improve the flow of funds for agriculture and fisheries, this law mandates universal and commercial banks to download funds to rural banks, cooperatives and microfinance institutions which in the past years have shown more than 100% compliance to the required lending to agriculture and agrarian reform beneficiaries.

"Kaso lang minsan, I question myself: How can all these laws be effective if our farmers themselves don't have their own lands to till? If their hacendero principals continue to exploit their work and refuse to abide by the law mandating them to distribute their lands? That goes hand-in-hand, eh-yung pagpapatupad ng Land Reform Act at yung pagbibigay ng tulong sa ating mga magsasaka."

"For our farmers to truly progress, they will need all the help from the government; including especially tangible actions to give them the lands due them," Loren said.

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