A Poverty Resource Hub of Focus on the Global South Philippines

Rural Poverty and Agrarian Reform

Rural Poverty and Agrarian Reform

May 21, 2013

(Excerpts from the longer report/publication recently released by Focus, entitled The State of Agrarian Reform Under President Benigno Aquino III’s Government)

Download the report here

Twenty-four years of implementation, still counting and with completion nowhere here near in sight. This amount of time that Philippine Government has taken to implement and complete the key provisions of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) law translates to a whole generation of Filipinos, including children of farmers, who have been born at the time of the law’s passage, have grown up through the years of tentative and unfinished implementation, and reaching adulthood amid current intensified clamor for government to complete its task.

CARP is now the longest running program being implemented under a democratic political system, post-EDSA 1986. It has been widely seen as the litmus test of past and present administrations’ commitment to social justice, as mandated by the 1987 Philippine Constitution. CARPER or Republic Act 9700, signed 7 August 2009, gave the original Republic Act 6657 or CARP five more years to be completed. In 1998, CARP’s land acquisition and distribution component had been given its first 10-year extension and an additional funding of PhP 50 billion through Republic Act 8532.

One of the main goals during the extension period should be the completion of land distribution by June 30, 2014. The program should get PhP 150 billion for five years or PhP 30 billion per year for land acquisition and distribution (LAD) and agrarian justice delivery (a total of 60 percent share for the two components), and for support services (40 percent). CARPER introduced other meaningful reforms articulated by farmers and rural women organizations, agrarian reform advocates and the Catholic church. These measures aim to address the loopholes in CARP and problems that have arisen from its implementation, and which have beset the program since its inception more than two decades ago.

Why Agrarian Reform?

Agrarian reform remains an unfinished business under the 1987 Philippine Constitution. As a key social justice mechanism, CARP and CARPER have yet to fulfill their promise. Article XII, Section 4 of the Constitution provides that “the State shall, by law, undertake an agrarian reform program founded on the right of farmers and regular farm workers, who are landless, to own directly or collectively the lands they till or, in the case of other farm workers, to receive a just share of the fruits thereof.”

More than a decade in 2002, the National Statistics Office surveys showed household members engaged in agricultural activity still worked in landholdings not their own. This indicated that  considerable numbers of landless farmers have yet own directly or collectively the lands they tiled. Part of the reason this has been the in ability of the DAR to distribute land already identified for CARP, as landless farmers for land distribution targeting.

Agrarian reform is a major reform measure meant to address rural poverty, as rural poverty has always has been highly linked to access to land. Based on government data (Table 1), poverty is highest in the top 15 provinces where there  have been large backlogs in land distribution. String political will by DAR is therefore neccessary. In 2011, these top 15 provinces accounted for more than one-third teh total LAD balance. This information is significant because these provinces also figured prominently in the list of province where the poorest families have been found. Negros Occidental, Camarines Sur, Leyte , Iloilo and LAnao del Sur have been among the top provinces with women in poor households, according to the 2009 National Household targeting Survey for Poverty Reduction of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

National Statistics Coordinating Board also reported that the poverty magnitude and share of Negros Occidental, Camarines Sur, Leyte, Iloilo and Masbate in the total number poor families and population in 2003 were quite high.

What these government figures underscore is that poverty in these areas can be linked to the continuing failure to effect agrarian reform. Assessment studies conducted by Balisacan (2007), Gordoncillo (2008) and Reyes (1998) have stressed this link; the technical working paper of the World Bank (2009) also posited that the modest impact of CARP on poverty  alleviation and growth had been mainly due to DAR’s inability to prioritize acquisition of private agricultural land through compulsory acquisition.

What these government figures underscore is that  beyond these statistics, to many  farmers who have been struggling for the realization of agrarian reform, land is freedom from poverty: owning a piece of land, earning from it, sending their children to school and putting a roof over their heads through the fruits of the land  will finally allow them to live a life of dignity and pride.



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