CARP Extension with Reforms Gaining Ground

On February 13, 2008, more than 200 people gathered at the Philippine Senate to show their support of the bills extending and reforming the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARPER  CARP with Extension and Reforms). Inside and outside the Senate, farmers, civil society leaders, government experts together with Bishop Broderick Pabillo, and farmer leader Ruperto Aleroza, advocated for the immediate extension of CARP and, more importantly, for the enactment of particular reforms to the program. Just recently, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) expressed their full support for CARPER, further increasing the momentum of the advocacy for extension and reform.

The first CARPER bill was filed at the House of Representatives by Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel as House Bill No. 1257 (HB 1257). Subsequently, the counterpart Senate Bill No.2047 (SB 2047), was filed by Senator Jinggoy Estrada. Both bills contain provisions which are vital to the success of CARP. These include provisions that ensure the adequate and secure funding of CARP, the installation of beneficiaries, the availability of competitive support services, and the rationalization of the Department of Agrarian Reform as the chief implementing agency of agrarian reform.  Since their introduction, the CARPER bills have gained increasing support from stakeholders, policymakers and civil society and religious organizations.  Since the early stages of consultation, formulation and drafting, SALIGAN has been in the midst of the effort to pass CARPER before the expiry of CARP in June 2008. With the growing clamor from various sectors of society, there is much reason to be optimistic that the CARPER bills will be passed in due time.

Main Features of HB 1257 and SB 2047:

  • Land acquisition and distribution (LAD) completion within 7 years from 2008;
  • Automatic appropriation by government of 3.8% of the annual national budget for CARP, which shall not be less than Php 38 Billion per year;
  • Creation of an Oversight Committee to meet once every year to submit a report to the Senate and the HoR on their evaluation as to the performance of the agrarian reform program;
  • Improved support services that includes collateral-free credit to Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs) and giving capital grant to new ARBs;
  • Enhancement of the provision on the Declaration of Principles and Policies of AR by providing that AR is an exercise of the 3 inherent powers of the State (eminent domain, police power, taxation) and the promotion of gender equality in terms of recognizing rights of beneficiaries and providing access to support services.
  • Prohibition of stock distribution options, lease-back and other non-distributive schemes; review of the non-distributive schemes for the purpose of direct and physical distribution to ARBs;
  • Indefeasibility of EPs/CLOAs after 1 year from registration;
  • Provision imposing taxes on idle and big landholdings, and provision directing LGUs to expropriate idle and unproductive landholdings;
  • Provision lengthening the period of prohibition for the sale/ transfer of awarded lands to 30 years (from 10 years);
  • A yearly target of land acquisition and distribution of not less than 200,000 has. every year for 7 years for LAD; Compulsory Acquisition will be the primary mode acquiring private agricultural lands;
  • Failure to implement the conversion plan within 5 years from its approval shall cause the land to be automatically covered under the CARP;
  • Creation of Interagency Committees tasked to plan, implement and monitor all support service undertakings in coordination with local stakeholders;
  • Regular conduct carp performance validation with stakeholder participation.

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