CARP’s land distribution data found dubious

Jun. 09, 2007

MANILA — The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) will mark its 19th anniversary this month. The Department of Agrarian Reform, the main implementor of the CARP, has boasted that land reform in the Philippines is a success.

According to the department, it has distributed a total of 6.44 million hectares nationwide under the program. That’s almost 80 percent of the target 8.06 million hectares. To complete the program, the DAR has asked for a 10-year extension of the CARP, up to 2018.

But, according to independent think-tank Ibon Foundation, the DARs “so-called land distribution figures actually serve to obscure the true state of landlessness and rural exploitation in the countryside.”

In a statement, Ibon said that “such figure should not be taken at face value due to various forms of bogus land distribution, which give a false picture of increasing land ownership among farmer-beneficiaries.”

It cited as an example cases of lands with registered certificates of award but have yet to turned over to farmers despite the fact that they have been paying for the land’s amortization. “In the most brazen cases, there are certificate holders who cannot occupy their land because of outright landlord resistance,” Ibon said.

Apart from reporting “dubious accomplishments,” the DAR figures, Ibon pointed out, “also do not reflect the distressing amount of reversals occurring for a variety of reasons. Landlords are able to exploit a legal defect in the law that limits the security of CARP beneficiaries claims to the lands covered. They also maneuver decisions favorable to them through technicalities such as supposed errors in data entries, in the change of documents and in the identification of legitimate farmer beneficiaries.”

It added that “the many ways for landlords to evade CARP, even as government reports increasing land distribution, shows how this so-called agrarian reform program is less about genuinely breaking the domination of landlords and rural elites over land than undercutting peasant resistance to land monopoly in the countryside through the implementation of spurious land reform.”

Thus, it said, the DARs “call to extend CARP for another 10 years is not the answer to the farmers call for land of their own to till as it will only intensify the prevailing poverty and ruthless exploitation in the countryside.”

In a speech in March during the 2007 Philippine Development Forum in Cebu City, DAR secretary Nasser C. Pangandaman extolled his department’s success. “The past 18 years of CARP saw us achieve high levels of accomplishments on the three major fronts of program implementation — land tenure improvement, agrarian justice delivery and program beneficiaries development — inspite of the overwhelming odds we have to face along the way.”

He cited the CARP’s deadline in June next year as a “major obstacle” for sustaining his department’s “success.”

“Amidst varied legal interpretations on whether or not significant provisions of such law are ‘directory’ or ‘mandatory’ vigorous efforts are now being done to convince both the legislative and executive branches of our government to see through the significance of the program, to see the need to sustain its gains and its continued relevance to the nation’s sustainable rural growth and development agenda — that CARP does not end in redistributing lands but more importantly, it is a comprehensive program that can really uplift the socio-economic status of our millions of farmers in the countryside,” Pangandaman said. (

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