Agrarian reform a must for food security in PH – UN expert

Jodesz Gavilan
Agrarian reform a must for food security in PH – UN expert
The legislative objective is laudable but the implementation is hindered by various roadblocks, Hilal Elver, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, says

MANILA, Philippines – Distributing land to farmers is one of the important steps in attaining food security in the Philippines, Hilal Elver, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, said Friday, February 27.

Elver’s preliminary report during her 7-day visit urged the government to properly implement the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Extension with Reforms (CARPER) immediately. (READ: Agrarian reform deadline: 41,500 hectares not yet covered)

“This is a key element to ensuring food security and preventing social unrest,” she explained. “The legislative objective is laudable but the implementation is hindered by various roadblocks.”

The earlier version of the law, CARP, was signed in 1988 by then President Corazon Aquino. However, the original deadline of 1998 was extended to 10 more years.

The failure to meet the new deadline in 2009 led to CARPER. (READ: Carper at 25: Beyond land distribution)

“The situation across the Philippines is that the landowners are very rich and own huge areas of land,” the Special Rapporteur noted. “This is a serious issue now.”

Poorest, harassed

People working in the agricultural sector are considered to be the poorest in the Philippines.

Despite being primary food producers, they suffer from hunger and food inadequacy due to lack of access to productive resources such as land, seeds, water, and capital. (READ: Faces of PH agriculture)

Elver said that CARPER may pave the way for them to push for progress in the farming sector.

However, the Special Rapporteur also noted the various reports she gathered from the ground regarding the plight of farmers against landowners throughout the 3 decades of the legislation. 

WAITING FOR AGRARIAN RFORM. Farmer activists wait for the Department of Agrarian Reform to decide on disputed land Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac. File photo by Dax Simbol

“Those farmers who have tilled and worked the land are allegedly being harassed and criminalized,” she said. “Landowners often ignore the notice of land distribution so these workeds are losing their means and source of substinence.”

With the short period left under the current administration, Elver hopes to encourage President Benigno Aquino III to ensure that the reform will be properly implemented to ensure growth in the agricultural sector. (READ: PH Agriculture: Why is it important?)

“This will be a good legacy for him once he steps down,” she said.

Support needed

The government support should not end in legislation, the UN expert said, as the farmers still have a lot of needs for them to sustain their livelihood – especially with the threats of climate change. (READ: Empowering farmers against climate change)

“They should be given resources for them to be able to cultivate their land and be self-sufficient,” Elver explained. “Technical and financial support are also essential in addition to land entitlement.”

The Special Rapporteur said that finally owning the land they farm is just one of the few steps in attaining food security. (READ: ‘Inclusive growth must start with agriculture’)

“What is the use of land reform if we don’t give farmers the access to technology or even seeds?” she emphasized. “Even if they are in their land peacefully, they definitely need help to start.”

Elver is expected to submit her final report on the situation and realization of the right to food in the Philippines to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2016. –

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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.