Research group IBON today said that the “firmed up” agreement of government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) on distribution of land for free as the basic principle of genuine agrarian reform is a positive step towards the forging of a Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) and ending the decades-old civil war in the countryside that is mainly fueled by landlessness.
In the Joint Statement released today by the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) as they closed their fourth round of formal peace talks in Noordwijk aan Zee, The Netherlands, both parties also agreed to accelerate the process of concluding a CASER.
IBON said that the two sides concurring on free land distribution as the basic principle of genuine agrarian reform is encouraging because it directly goes to the crux of the armed conflict. The group added that agrarian reform and rural development, together with national industrialization and economic development, is the foundation of a CASER that the GRP and NDFP panels are trying to hammer out through the peace talks.
Land amortization is one of the major problems that confront most agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) under government’s flawed land distribution program, IBON stressed. Citing data from the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP), the research group pointed out that 75% of ARBs are not able to pay land amortization and only 9.7% are already fully-paid.
IBON added that the issue of land amortization is aggravated by government’s continuing failure to actually distribute lands to the farmers. Based on data from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), the land acquisition and distribution (LAD) balance under government’s land reform program is pegged at 621,085 hectares (has.) of which 93% are private agricultural lands, as of January 2016.
This as many large haciendas and other land monopolies of powerful landlords and big oligarchs remain intact. In an earlier statement, the group said that 80% of agricultural lands are controlled by just one third of all landowners.
IBON urged the GRP and NDFP to build on the momentum of the fourth round of peace talks to finalize a CASER that will pave the way for the implementation of free land distribution under a genuine agrarian reform and rural development program. ###