The unfulfilled promise: Farmer groups stage protests against CARP

Farmers against CARP Photo Credit: Inquirer

In 1988, former President Corazon Aquino promised to give land to landless farmers to better their lives through her landmark legislation known as Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program or CARP.

She initiated the land reform program in June 10, 1988 as a 10-year program and was extended for another 10 years. In 2009, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo extended it for another five years. The extended CARP or CARPer (CARP extension with Reforms) is set to expire on June 30, 2014.

Today, President Benigno Aquino III, son of former President Corazon Aquino, wants the law to be extended for another two years so the government can accomplish what his mother and the other administrations failed to accomplish in the past 26 years.

Now, less than a month before the CARP expires, several groups of farmers from different parts of the country are converging in Metro Manila to press their demands for the completion of land distribution. According to data from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), almost 95 percent of the estimated 900 million hectares of land that has not yet been distributed as of the second half of 2013.

House Bill 4296, which President Aquino certified as urgent, seek to extend the land acquisition and distribution program (LAD) under CARPer for two years. It is a measure that will ensure the fair and equitable land distribution to farmers, said President Aquino in his letter to House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte.

However, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon criticized the HB 4296. He said, “The youth sector is highly critical of the proposed measure that Congress is set to tackle today. For not only has CARP and its extension law failed to deliver its proverbial ‘promised land’ to the nation’s tillers, but the implementation of the said law has led to further marginalization of the peasant sector.”

Farmers stage protests against CARP Photo Credit: Demotix
Farmers stage protests against CARP
Photo Credit: Demotix

Ridon said there is no need for Congress to pass another extension law to the CARPer because it has accomplished close to nothing. Until now, landlessness is still prevalent in the country, he added.

The youth group said that instead of extending the CARPer, Congress should expedite the passage of Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) or House Bill no. 252, co-authored by Ridon.

HB 252 will provide for the swift and free land distribution, nationalization of lands operated by transnational corporations and expropriation of commercial farms, confiscation of landholdings acquired through nefarious schemes, and a comprehensive program for the protection of lands of beneficiaries and the promotion of cooperatives and support services.

Meanwhile, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) said they are open to dialogue with farmers. A series of dialogues have been scheduled from June 5 onwards between these farmers groups and DAR officials to take up this issue and other demands of these farmers’ organizations.