By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz
The thrust of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration to fast-track the distribution of lands to agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) has empowered Filipino farmers to become landowners in the near future.
Free land distribution, at the core of genuine and comprehensive agrarian reform, is one of the six sector outcomes and legislative agenda backed by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in President Duterte’s 2017-2022 Philippine Development Plan (PDP).
PDP 2017-2022 is the first concrete step toward the realization of AmBisyon Natin 2040 of President Duterte that aims the country to be a prosperous middle-class society where no one is poor, people live long and healthy lives, and are smart and innovative.
This year, DAR issued directives to hasten and improve the land tenure services of the department. It deems necessary that the land tenure services improve so that the delivery of land acquisition and distribution targets of DAR is ensured.
DAR has vowed to complete all land acquisition and distribution targets, such as certificate of land ownership awards (CLOAs) consisting of 48,000 hectares and subdivision of collective CLOAs totaling 42,943 hectares.
Land acquisition and distribution involves the redistribution of government and private agricultural lands to landless farmers and farm workers.
This year, a total of 1,652 agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) from the Cordillera Administrative Region received their CLOAs, covering 937 hectares in the provinces of Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga and Mt. Province.
In Nueva Ecija, DAR distributed 95 CLOAs covering 144.88 hectares to 80 farmers.
Meanwhile, 282 hectares of land covered by 159 CLOAs were distributed to 115 ARBs in Bukidnon and Cagayan de Oro City.
Around 921 ARBs in “Yolanda”-hit areas, specifically in the municipalities of Barugo, Jaro and San Miguel in Leyte, received their CLOAs covering a total land area of 941 hectares.
DAR also led the distribution of CLOAs to 123 farmers in Camarines Norte, totaling 222.94 hectares.
Early this year, DAR led the validation of ARBs in Hacienda Luisita.
It also turned over a P43-million worth of irrigation projects in Camarines Norte that would provide sufficient water supply to increase farmers’ rice yields and land productivity in the area.
Before the year ended, DAR welcomed a new chief who will lead the fast-tracked distribution of lands to farmers.
President Duterte appointed John Castriciones as DAR’s Acting Secretary, almost two months after the rejection of former Secretary Rafael Mariano’s ad interim appointment.
Castriciones emphasized that under his leadership, farmers especially those qualified to benefit from the agrarian reform program of the government must be prioritized.
“A lot of our problems in the country have emanated from social injustices and the most affected are the farmers,” Castriciones said, noting that around 70 percent of the Filipinos are still connected with agriculture.
“Farmers are victims of the long-standing injustice in our history. And because of this uneven distribution of lands, it has resulted in a lot of rebellions in the past,” he said.
Such injustice, he added, has also fueled the problem of insurgency in the country at present.
“Many of our problems today which is being addressed by the advocacy of our President like the illegal drugs, insurgency, poverty, criminality and corruption stem from the fact that the basic reason or the underlying reason for all of these is poverty,” he said.
He pointed out that poverty is caused by the fact that there a lot of social injustices happening in the country.
“The real solution is to address the issue of poverty and we will play our vital role in this because we (employees) are the Department of Agrarian Reform,” he added.
Castriciones specifically took notice of the continuing encampment of farmers outside the premises of DAR Central Office in Quezon City.
Exactly 91 farmer-protesters went back home to Mindanao on December 18 for the holidays, in the hopes that DAR would fast-track the resolutions of their appeal for the issuance of land installation order.