MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano on Monday, September 19, made another push for his proposal to pass a new agrarian reform law and facilitate the coverage of more lands.
Defending before senators the proposed budget of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) for 2017, Mariano reiterated what he also told congressmen when he first presented the agency's budget in early September.
On Monday, he told senators that the agency's mandate is limited to the Republic Act 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) Law of 1988, which expired in 2014.
“This is why we take this opportunity for the Senate to also help the department in passing a new agrarian reform law that will expand the mandate of the DAR and facilitate the coverage of more than 621,000 hectares of agricultural lands not yet covered by our agrarian reform program,” he said.
Same appeal to congressmen
In the House of Representatives on September 6, Mariano urged lawmakers to pass a proposed measure that seeks to provide free land distribution to qualified beneficiaries of the CARP.
The DAR chief, former head of the farmer-peasants group Kilusang Mambubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), noted at the time that only a quarter of the 900,000 CARP beneficiaries have completed payment of the lands distributed to them.
He said the Land Bank of the Philippines has already released a total of P69.4 billion to agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) but 75% of them have not fully paid their dues.
"This is a big policy issue that we will address to the prerogative of the legislative. Over 120,000 of our ARBs cannot even pay their monthly amortization," he told lawmakers.
Mariano urged lawmakers to pass House Bill No. 555 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill, which proposes free land distribution to all qualified farmer-beneficiaries. It also seeks the institutionalization of a state-funded subsidy program for land reform beneficiaries in crucial aspects of agricultural production.
Prior to his Cabinet appointment, Mariano had pushed for a new agrarian reform law since the CARP extension already expired in 2014.
The agency has yet to distribute more than 620,000 hectares of land and settle disputes and charges of land grabbing between private landowners and farmer-beneficiaries.
For 2017, DAR has proposed a lower budget of P10.144 billion from 2016's P10.4 billion.
The bulk of the proposed budget is for the implementation of CARP, despite its expiration. DAR's proposed budget for CARP next year is P9.8 billion.
More than P1.2 billion is allocated for the direct costs of land ternue improvement and distribution of 95,000 hectares of agricultural lands.
Mariano noted that the decrease in the 2017 allocation is due to the 34% cut in maintenance and operating expenses.
Meanwhile, the proposed capital outlay for 2017 is higher than in 2016, or to P1,663,680,000 from P911,221,000, a difference of P752.5 million.
Mariano explained that the proposed increased allotment is for the implementation of foreign-assisted projects: the Agrarian Reform Community Development Support Program, the Mindanao Sustainable Agrarian and Agriculture Development Project, and the Convergence on Value-Chain Enhancement for Rural Growth and Empowerment Project.
Among its services, DAR has allotted the biggest chunk – P1.2 billion – to the Land Tenure Services (LTS). This will be used to acquire and distribute 95,000 hectares of agricultural landholdings nationwide.
Of this amount, P498.4 million will used to give tenurial security to farmer beneficiaries. – Rappler.com