Noting that seven out of 10 poor Filipinos live in the rural areas where landlessness remains widespread, IBON reiterated today the urgency of doable reforms such as free land distribution. The research group made the statement as various peasant organizations and land reform advocates across the country mark the “Day of the Landless” today.
IBON pointed out that land continues to be heavily concentrated in the hands of big landlords and businesses with less than a third of landowners controlling over 80% of agricultural lands in the country. Meanwhile, half of all farms are under tenancy, lease and other forms of tenurial arrangements.
The group said that government’s past land distribution programs have failed. After almost three decades of implementation, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) reported an 88% accomplishment rate. But 76% of CARP beneficiaries are unable to amortize the land granted to them under CARP and thus are at risk of losing their land.
IBON added that the Philippines can learn from developed countries like Japan, South Korea and Taiwan that did not require their agrarian reform beneficiaries to amortize and had the lands distributed freely.
Genuine agrarian reform, first and foremost, should involve effectively breaking up land monopolies, the group said. It should be accompanied by support services from government including credit and subsidies as well as agricultural infrastructure such as adequate and accessible farm-to-market roads, irrigation, post-harvest facilities, etc. The program must also be sustained by agricultural science and technology to boost productivity and rural industries.
Despite the many challenges, there are recent developments that are favorable to the prospects of genuine land reform and rural development, IBON said. The ongoing peace negotiations between the Duterte administration and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), for instance, have social and economic reforms that include agrarian reform and rural development as their top agenda.
It is thus crucial for the country’s policy makers and the public to support the peace talks to help address landlessness and chronic poverty that have been long plaguing the country, IBON stressed. ###