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MANILA, Philippines – Farmers and advocates of land reform on Wednesday urged President Benigno Aquino III to include agrarian reform targets in his State of the Nation Address in July.
The call was made to speed up the completion of land distribution to farmer-beneficiaries amid the underperformance of the Department of Agrarian Reform. The land acquasition and distribution phase of the government's Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) will end in June 2014. However, close to a million hectares of farmlands have not yet been distributed by the DAR to their tillers.
“Dapat maisama niya sa SONA ang repormang agraryo. Ilabas na rin niya sa SONA ang taunang target kada probinsiya lalo na sa top 20 probinsiya na may pinakamatataas na bilang ng lupang hindi pa naipapamahagi. Ito ang klase ng transparency na gusto naming mahihirap,” said Trinidad Domingo, spokesperson of the Save Agrarian Reform Alliance (SARA) and leader of the Pambansang Koalisyon ng mga Kababaihan sa Kanayunan.
[He should include agrarian reform in his SONA. He should mention in his SONA the annual targets in every province, especially the top 20 provinces with the highest number of undistributed landholdings. This is the kind of transparency that poor people like us want.]
SARA said Aquino could prove that his administration is on “matuwid na daan" [right path] if he would address the plight of thousands of farmers who remain landless since the CARP was implemented by the chief executive's mother Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino in June 1988. SARA said that in his past SONAs, Aquino did not mention agrarian reform as a priority of his administration.
SARA further challenged the admnistration to allocate the maximum mandated budget of P150 billion to complete land distribution.
The group also challenged Department of Budget and Management chief Florencio “Butch” Abad, former DAR secretary, to ensure the maximum allocation of P4.9 billion for agrarian reform support services and access to socialized credit until the end Aquino’s term in 2016.
SARA said it would present its “State of Agrarian Reform Report” to Palace officials. The report contains data on the status of the implementation of the CARP from March to May 2012 in 200 landholdings and the observations of farmers nationwide on the real status of the program.