Without doubt, the biggest accomplishments of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) for the year 2013 was the completion of the distribution of Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOAs) to qualified farmer-beneficiaries of Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac last October.
“The land in Luisita is now theirs,” Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes declared proudly after the DAR finished the distribution of CLOAs to the last batch of farmer-beneficiaries in Barangay Mapalacsiao in Hacienda Luisita on Oct. 20.
In that occasion, 663 out of 745 farm workers’ beneficiaries (FWBs) from Barangay Mapalacsiao were the last among the 10 barangays to receive the much-awaited CLOAs in compliance with the Supreme Court ruling.
Despite the damage inflicted by typhoon “Santi” in many areas of the province of Tarlac at the time, the distribution pushed through and did not deter the eagerness of the farmers to receive the CLOAs they had waited for so long.
Data from DAR showed that 5,718 CLOAs were distributed to FWBs out of a total of 6,189 ready for distribution that time.
CLOAs of other FWBs are still being registered with the Registry of Deeds or are still not generated due to pending of signing by some FWBs of their Application to Purchase and Farmers Undertaking (APFU).
De los Reyes said that the signing of APFU will signify the FWBs intention to accept the duties and responsibilities of a beneficiary to the lot that he is acquiring as recipient.
The DAR chief emphasized that only those who have signed the APFU will be given land with an area of more or less 6,600 square meters from the total 4,099 hectares up for distribution.
In addition, around 400.87 hectares of the landholding will also be covered under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) for common use of the beneficiaries.
These consist of firebreaks that serve as access road for beneficiaries to their farmlots, canals, fish ponds, eroded areas, roads, creeks/irrigation, lagoon, railroad tracks, legal easements, concrete structures and buffer zones.
The said areas are not included for distribution because of their current use.
According to the DAR chief, the next step after the distribution of certified true copies of the CLOAs is the preparation for the installation of the FWBs in their lots while the department conducts the “monumenting” or placing of “mohon” after the harvesting season of the sugar cane.
Currently, the DAR is engaged in testing and determining soil samples to be used as the definitive reference in customizing interventions and menu of support services to be offered to the FWBs, in recognition of the kinds of crops the FWBs may want to plant.
It may be recalled that the distribution of CLOAs started in Barangay Pando last Sept. 30, where many teary-eyed and aging FWBs expressed their gratitude in receiving the lot that they waited for so long.
In the subsequent weeks, it had distributed certified true copies of CLOAs to FWBs in Barangays Motrico, Lourdes, Parang, Mabilog, Bantug, Cutcut, Asturias, Balete, and lastly in Mapalacsiao, reflecting the government’s serious commitment in bringing its promise to fully implement the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) before President Benigno S. Aquino III’s term ends in 2016, as promised during his State-of-the-Nation Address on July 23, 2012.
Prior to distribution of CLOAs, the DAR started on July 18 the conduct of the raffle of farmlands for FWBs to determine the farmlands to be given to them.
The step is very crucial in generating the CLOAs because the raffle will identify the specific parcel of land that each qualified beneficiary will own.
The farm lot allocation began in Barangay Cutcut and continued until all the barangays were covered.
The drawing of lots using the conventional “tambiolo” (raffle drum) was open to the public and witnessed by media men to ensure fairness and transparency.
The farmers whose names were drawn during the raffle were awarded with Lot Allocation Certificates (LACs) which indicate their name and lot number for the farm lot allocated to them.
Upon receiving their LAC, the beneficiaries then were oriented on their rights and obligations. The drawing of lots was completed last Aug. 21.
on April 24, 2013 DAR announced that two crucial stages in the process of distribution of land to farm workers in Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac had been completed: the identification of 6,212 qualified beneficiaries and the segregation survey in the country’ biggest sugar estate.
According to De los Reyes, the process of identifying the farmer-beneficiaries took up a significant amount of time and resources as the department had to deploy additional personnel from various regional offices in order to accomplish the task.
He added that the process was a difficult undertaking as they had to check and recheck records from 23 years ago to determine who would be awarded land in HL.
“This took a considerable amount of time as we had to reconcile data from various records,” Delos Reyes said as he cited that DAR had to be very meticulous as the undertaking will affect thousands of people.
DAR Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Anthony Parungao explained that the process of land distribution in Hacienda Luisita was distinct and separate from the special purpose audit of pertinent financial records of Hacienda Luisita Inc. and Centenary Holdings Inc.
“There is no truth to allegations by a farmers’ group in Hacienda Luisita that the impasse on the special purpose audit is delaying the land distribution schedule in the sugar estate,” Parungao said.
DAR officials remain optimistic that the department has undertaken enough measures and reforms necessary, including closer coordination with other CARP-implementing agencies, to complete the land distribution in the country in 2016.
During the year, farm-to-market road projects were facilitated by DAR in cooperation with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in various Agrarian Reform Communities in the countryside.
These road projects helped in improving people’s mobility going inward and outward their areas due to shortened travelling time, reduced transportation costs and provide them accessibility to the market centers.
“With the paved roads constructed, farmers now have a faster and comfortable travel means that will give them extra time to attend to other business ventures,” Delos Reyes explained.
Potable water supply projects were also turned over by DAR to several ARCs to provide them safe drinking water as buying drinking water adds up to their daily expenses.
Pump irrigation projects are also constructed to assist in irrigating several hectares of land in farmlands where lack of enough water for irrigation is greatly needed.
The irrigation system will greatly help farmers double their income as they can maximize rice production to three cropping seasons, unlike before when they relied heavily on rainwater.
In Bacolod, a total of 1,134 ARBS exalted in joy when each of them received their most-awaited CLOAs, plus a bonus of sort in the form of P26.85 million of credit assistance extended to their respective farmers’ organizations.
DAR Undersecretary Jerry Pacturan said that each of the new farmer-landowners got an average of 1.28 hectares of farm lot out of the total 1,453 hectares distributed during the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
The farmer-beneficiaries became more excited when it was announced that the credit assistance is spiced with free insurance package to spare them of any financial obligations for damages that they may incur on their farms as a result of natural calamities.
The insurance package is not only meant to safeguard the farmer-beneficiaries’ farms from the possible onslaught of pests and strong typhoons, but it also provides all members of the recipient agrarian reform beneficiaries’ organizations (ARBOs) and their families P50,000 insurance coverage each in case of death or accident.
The DAR successfully completed the acquisition and distribution of four big sugar estates in Negros Occidental, installing 244 farm workers in their newly-owned property covering a gross area of almost 500 hectares of land in the cities of Cadiz and Sagay.
DAR Assistant Secretary for Field Operations Teofilo Inocencio, who flew from Manila to supervise the installation activities, credited the success of the two-day event to the close coordination among farmers’ organizations and DAR personnel in Negros Occidental.
The successful installation activities in Negros Occidental was part of the DAR’s ongoing efforts to distribute all CARP-covered lands before President Aquino’s term ends in 2016.
In 2014, the DAR’s target is to distribute about 240,707 hectares. The following year, it aims to distribute about 180,707 hectares.
From January to June 2016, the target distribution is 123,113 hectares. PNA