By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz
Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriciones has advised new landowners to enlist as members of cooperatives or agrarian reform beneficiaries organizations (ARBOs) to be able to receive more assistance from the government.
He encouraged 1,006 farmers from the Zamboanga Peninsula, who received their certificates of land ownership award (CLOA), to “join ARBOs because this is where we channel support for farmer beneficiaries.”
Castriciones, who led the distribution of CLOAs, explained that the work of DAR does not end in the distribution of lands alone.
The agency also provides support services to enable farmer beneficiaries to manage their lands better.
“I am thankful to the DAR for finding ways to distribute the land to us,” said 68-year-old farmer Cesario Cielo.
Cielo waited for 24 years to receive 2.8 hectares of agricultural land located in Barangay Sta. Clara, Naga, Zamboanga Sibugay.
“Some disputes caused the delay but they were finally resolved,” he explained.
He plans to continue planting fruit trees, such as lanzones and mangosteen through the help of DAR’s support services, which include farm to market roads and farm facilities.
He said that with these programs and projects, the farmer beneficiaries are assured of a brighter future ahead of them.
They just need to capacitate themselves, work harder, and make their lands productive for future generations.
Farmer beneficiaries were also informed by Castriciones that the Land Bank of the Philippines offers an Accessible and Sustainable Lending Program (ASLP) where farmers can loan up to ₱50,000 to buy farm inputs. Annual interest of the loan is only at 6 percent.
However, Castriciones warned the farmer beneficiaries not to sell or mortgage the lands awarded by the government or risk losing the land being charged according to law.
From 1972 to June 2018, around 2.849 million agrarian reform beneficiaries have received their own lands to till covering a total area of about 4.865 million hectares of agricultural lands.
There remains 561,000 hectares of private agricultural lands and 260,000 hectares government-owned lands for distribution.