Press Release
May 6, 2009


Sen. Loren Legarda yesterday proposed that government should provide more aid to beneficiaries of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law to make them more productive and lift their living standards.

The chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food made the statement in the face of findings by the World Bank that poverty in the rural areas had expanded despite implementation of CARL.

Senator Legarda is a co-author with seven other senators of Senate Bill 2666 which seeks to extend the term of the agrarian reform law for another 14 years after the present law expires on Dec. 31, 2013.

Loren cited a World Bank study which showed that during two decades of CARP implementation, the number of poor in the rural areas actually by more than 300,000 between 1997 and 2003.

"Our country's agrarian reform program was crafted on the basis that a more equitable distribution of land ownership will promote a more equitable distribution of income," she said.

Another survey conducted by the Center for Peasant Education and Services (CPES) in Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon regions showed that three out of five holders of certificates of land Ownership (CLOA) or Emancipation Patents (EP) have either sold or mortgaged their rights and eventually abandoned their properties without payment.

"Poverty remains the major reason why tenant-beneficiaries are forced to surrender their lands or rights to buyers and mortgagers," Loren said.

Studies also revealed that agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) are better off than the non-ARB landowners if the latter reside in a non-ARC (Agrarian Reform Community) barangay, and that the ARBs residing in an ARC barangay have a higher per capita income.

"This just goes to show that one of the important aspects of agrarian reform is support services," Loren said.

Loren noted that following the transfer of land ownership under CARL, the agrarian reform beneficiaries were practically left on their own without any substantial government assistance.

"While there is a need to extend the Agrarian reform Law, may be we should focus as we;; on strengthening the support services to ARBs rather than extend the period for compulsory acquisition of land," she said.

Loren is specifically batting for a quantitative model of how CARP will increase productivity in order to guide the Senate in policy formulation.

Studies and experience, according to Loren, show that greater productivity and more income should be the main purpose of a new CARP bill.

"I believe that this can be achieved by fostering an environment favorable to rural investment and by strengthening the support services that are available to the ARBs and provide funding to the support services," she explained.

Under the proposed measure, 4l0 percent of all appropriations for agrarian reform shall be immediately set aside for support services and one-third of this portion shall be specifically allocated for subsidies to support the initial capital or seed money for agricultural production.

The amount needed to implement the CARP until Dec. 31, 2013 is estimated at P147 billion. A total of P200 billion had been spent in the CARP which started in the time of President Aquino, but the amount still fell short because of misplaced priorities and misallocation .

Loren lamented that local farmers are lagging behind their Asean neighbors in terms of food production. "What can a farmer do with land if he does not have water to irrigate his land, seeds to plant and the proper fertilizers for the crop and no fertilizers for orchids," said Loren.

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