Saturday, August 7, 2010
Hacienda Luisita and the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program
It was news two days ago that the infamous Hacienda Luisita dispute has been partially resolved. After 21 years of conflict and death of farmers during the Cory Aquino administration, the owners of the land and the farmers have made a compromise giving farm workers two options - to receive land parcels or retain their Hacienda Luisita Inc. stocks (http://ph.news.yahoo.com/gma). Although "only" 1400 hectares will be awarded to the farmers from the total 6453-hectare plantation, i think it is a good compromise, not the best, but a good start.
This issue, which hounds President Noynoy Aquino, even before the start of the campaign period has become a torn to his popularity. Even though Noynoy's share is just a small percentage of the 6453 hectares, his opponents are trying their best to link his name to the death of the farmers who perished during the Hacienda Luisita massacre during his mother's administration. I was too young when the massacre happened and the media nowadays are just highlighting the deaths but not what transpired that led to the bloodshed.
Under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, which was enacted by the 8th Congress of the Philippines and signed by President Corazon Aquino on June 10, 1988, and individual cannot own more than 7 hectares of land. If this will happen, the remaining area will be parceled out and will be divided into individual tenants. Such tenant may enjoy a maximum of three hectares of irrigated land, or five hectares of unused land, where the new owners will pay royalty taxes and the computable amount of land to the original landholders for a maximum of fifteen years (http://en.wikipedia.org). This law will make farmers landowners and will prevent them from being just tenants forever by wealthy landowners. It is a good tool for dividing wealth to promote equality among landowners and small farmers.
Hopefully the issue will then be laid to rest and farmers will get a fair share of the land they have been fighting to own for more than 20 years of their lifetime. It is a good sign for Noynoy's administration and a big help to the farmers in Tarlac. The CARP is a good program but farmers should also be aware that there is a limit for lands that will be rewarded to them. CARP may be seen as an unfair law for the wealthy since they can always argue that their parents or grandparents have worked hard to purchase lands as an investment for the children's future which will later be taken away from them by the government and awarded to the farmers who live on these lands. They should also put themselves on the landowners shoes where they will be forced to give up their lands because it is a law passed by government officials and representatives they elected from their communities.