By JONAS ALPASAN
MANILA – A group of Filipino farmers said the Marcos Jr. administration need to enact a new land reform program that will expand the existing coverage of agricultural lands for distribution.
“The intent to distribute lands free of charge is ineffective at best and duplicitous at worst, in the absence of a new agrarian reform law that will allow the coverage of new private agricultural lands for distribution after CARP’s mandate to do so expired in 2014,” said Rafael Mariano, former agrarian reform secretary and chairperson emeritus of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.
CARP stands for the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.
In his State of the Nation Address, Marcos Jr. said that agrarian reform should continue, adding that it is not just about acquisition but also providing support services and distribution.
Mariano said that free land distribution will become mundane “as the bulk of it will be for public lands, absolving private land monopolies which shall retain the capacity to acquire, legally or otherwise, supposedly ‘distributed’ lands.”
A previous study of KMP showed that from 2017 to 2021, the existing landholdings in the country are still controlled by the Philippines’ richest.
Marcos said that he will issue a one-year moratorium on the payment of land amortization and interest payments “give the farmers the ability to channel their resources in developing their farms, maximizing their capacity to produce, and propel the growth of our economy.”
Mariano welcomed this but said it is “long overdue.”
“We will nonetheless ensure that this translates on the ground,” Mariano said.
On the distribution of government-owned lands
But how about the vast estates owned by landed families?
In his speech, Marcos Jr. said the government has a total of 52,000 hectares of unused agricultural land, which may be distributed to landless war veterans, landless surviving families of war veterans, landless retirees of the Philippine military, and landless graduates of agriculture.
The distribution of government-owned lands, according to KMP, was stipulated in the Executive Order No. 75 signed by the predecessor of Marcos Jr., former President Rodrigo Duterte.
“But what about the acquisition and distribution of even larger private agricultural lands such as haciendas and landholdings under the control of private families and corporations?” Mariano said.
These estates include the 102,954-hectare land in Sultan Kudarat owned by the DMCI and the combined estate of 47,100-hectare Yulo King Ranch in Palawan and the Hacienda Yulo in Laguna, which remains in the hands of the Yulo family.
The Yulo family, for one, was able to acquire the Yulo King Ranch in Palawan through Marcos Sr.’s Proclamation 1387, which the late dictator signed in 1975.
The KMP said that by merely distributing government-owned agricultural land, “this would mean further land monopoly of landlords and big plantations.”
The group added that because these are government-owned lands, “land amortization payment is not necessary.”
Stop land use conversion, rice tarrification law too
Mariano also urged the Marcos Jr. administration to look into the problem of land-use conversion as the “non-recognition of the problem” will defeat “any declared support for agrarian reform.”
The farmers group also noted that Marcos Jr. did not mention the need to review and repeal the controversial Rice Liberalization Law.