and-related struggles have been a recurring feature of Philippine history, thus demonstrating the importance accorded by farmers to their lands. Over the years, there have been many State-sponsored efforts to reform the agrarian structure in the country, but few have had much success. Nevertheless, the struggle to implement genuine agrarian reform in the country continues. In fact, nongovernment and people’s organizations (NGOs and POs) have long been involved in this effort.
Nathaniel Don E. Marquez, Maricel A. Tolentino and Ma. Teresa Debuque. Linking Local to Global Initiatives. ANGOC paper. 2001, revised 2006.
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Agrarian Reform: A Protracted Struggle in the Philippines
The Philippines has seen over 400 uprisings — many of them land-related and peasant-led — in its long history. The intensity of agrarian conflict in the country is rooted in a highly skewed land ownership pattern — a legacy of colonial rule — and not coincidentally, widespread rural poverty.
Poverty in the Philippines is largely rural. According to the National Statistical Coordinating Board (NSCB) in 2006, farmers and fishermen are estimated to have the highest poverty incidence among the country’s basic sectors (“Development of Poverty Statistics for the Basic Sectors”, NSCB, Feb. 2006). The fact that more than half of all rural households is absolutely landless is no mere happenstance. The Philippine government’s response to the problem is the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), which it has been implementing since 1988. The CARP was conceived around the “land-to-the-tiller” principle and at its inception aimed to redistribute 8.1 million hectares to landless farmers and farmworkers. As of 2004, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has distributed a total of 3.45 million hectares to 1.975 million farmer-beneficiaries. However, the pace at which the DAR has undertaken its land acquisition and distribution (LAD) operations has slowed worryingly in the past 10 years. Since 1994, when the DAR distributed some 434,000 hectares — DAR’s highest LAD record thus far — its accomplishments in land distribution have progressively declined. From 2000 to 2003, DAR has been able to move an average of just 110,000 hectares each year. The Philippine Congress had previously given the CARP a 10-year extension on its original 1998 deadline after the government failed to complete the transfer, particularly of privately owned agricultural lands. Then, in June 2004, the DAR announced that it would ask for another two-year extension of its 2008 deadline, to 2010, citing budgetary constraints. Landowner resistance usually takes the form of physical harassment of CARP beneficiaries, as the case study (CARRUF: Chronicle of a Local Struggle) shows, but landlords have just as effectively exploited their media contacts and their influence with local authorities to discredit farmer beneficiaries. They have also resorted to dilatory tactics, like filing innumerable court cases to decide questions like coverage and landowner compensation, knowing fully well how long it would take the courts to settle the matter.
Insufficient Budgetary Support
Besides the resistance from landowners, CARP is burdened by a dwindling budget for land acquisition. The DAR’s recent budget allocations have allowed it to cover a mere 50,000 hectares per year despite the 100,000-hectare-per year commitment made by President Gloria Arroyo.
Struggles in Implementing Agrarian Reform in the Philippines
ANGOC & ILC
CARRUF: CHRONICLE OF A LOCAL STRUGGLE
The CARRUF estate is a 147-hectare sugarland located in Valencia, Bukidnon, a province in Southern Philippines. The tenants and farmworkers who had been cultivating the estate since 1974 had been told that the land was State-owned and was commissioned to a rich landowning...