Farmers group urges PBBM, DAR chief to expedite land distribution

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(Contributed Photo)

Farmers from Task Force Mapalad (TFM) flocked to the central office of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in Quezon City on Monday, June 10, and urged President Marcos to expedite the land distribution process.

The farmers’ group has appealed to President Marcos and DAR Secretary Conrado Estrella III to hasten the acquisition of private agricultural lands (PALs) and ensure land distribution is completed as mandated by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and related land reform laws.

The farmers claimed that despite several meetings and agreements, DAR has failed to meet its commitments under Memorandum Circular No. 226, which mandates the continuation of land acquisition and distribution despite landowner protests.

“Adding to the woes of the landless farmers are the lack of funds to pay for the land already under the control of the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP), the resistance of landowners to the survey of landholdings covered by CARP, and the filing of a variety of cases to impede the conduct of such surveys,” the group said in a statement.

According to TFM, the agrarian reform department takes up to five years to conduct the surveys after the cases have been resolved. 

The farmers have also complained about the “lengthy process” for generating Certificates of Landownership Awards (CLOAs) due to landowners exploiting legal options, such as splitting titles to their landholdings.

The TFM cited specific cases such as Hacienda San Isidro, Hacienda Rose Agri, and Hacienda Iling-iling, where land distribution has been significantly delayed.

The group said that when Marcos assumed office in June 2022, there were still 173,340 hectares of land nationwide awaiting distribution, noting that is in addition to 147,378 hectares temporarily removed from the land distribution list in March 2022 under Memorandum Circular No. 112, which ordered the cleansing of the land acquisition and distribution (LAD) balance.

Despite the decreasing land availability, the group pointed out that DAR has consistently fallen short of its annual LAD targets.

TFM's data showed that 30,936 hectares of CARP-covered lands remain undistributed in Negros Occidental, the most extensive CARP territory in the Philippines.

Citing the data of DAR, TFM said the total number of hectares registered for CARP from July to December 2022 was 4,232.658 nationwide. 

Per TFM, the agrarian reform department faces budgetary constraints and a lack of political resolve to expedite land acquisition and distribution (LAD) and fulfill the government's pledge to complete CARP by 2028.

“We cannot understand why President Marcos has failed to marshal the government’s resources to ensure that CARP can wipe out the LAD backlog and quicken the takeover of PALs and the distribution of land to the farmers who have been waiting for decades to receive a tract of land they could cultivate,” the group said.