• Farmers demanding extension of modified land reform

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    Hundreds of landless farmers from Negros Occidental, Batangas and Quezon hold a die-in rally at Buendia corner Ayala Avenue in Makati City on Friday after a long walk from Batangas City. Photo By Ruy L. Martinez

    Hundreds of landless farmers from Negros Occidental, Batangas and Quezon hold a die-in rally at Buendia corner Ayala Avenue in Makati City on Friday after a long walk from Batangas City. Photo By Ruy L. Martinez

    Farmer groups are converging in Metro Manila to ask for an extension of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program with Extension and Reforms (Carper) that expires on June 30.

    More than 700 farmers from the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and its regional organizations began marching to Malacanang early this week to seek a dialogue with President Benigno Aquino 3rd to protest the government’s “delaying tactics” in land distribution.

    Task Force Mapalad (TFM), a non-government organization helping the farmers, said more than 271,000 hectares of land are not yet covered by agrarian reform and asked the Department of Agrararian Reform (DAR) to speed up their distribution.

    These lands are in at least 22 provinces, including Quezon, Negros Occidental, Samar and Leyte, according to TFM.

    The issuance of notices of coverage (NOC) jumpstarts the process of land acquisition and distribution to the farmers.

    Section 30 of Republic Act 9700 or the Carper Law allows the acquisition and distribution of land to small farmers as long as these NOCs are issued “before June 30.”

    But the DAR has admitted that it could not meet the June 30 deadline.

    According to the department, a major source of delay is that many documents required for the issuance of NOCs such as land titles are missing or damaged by calamities.

    Thus, it hopes that Congress can pass an amendment to the Carper Law and allow it to issue NOCs after it expires.

    The DAR’s request was relayed to the agrarian reform committee in the House of Representatives last March 3.

    The department clarified that the line “no need for Congress to extend Carper” in their paper was misinterpreted by agrarian reform advocates as a “delaying tactic” in land distribution to farmers.

    Maribel Luzara, president of the Kilusang Magbubukid sa Bundok Peninsula in Quezon noted President Aquino’s promise “that land distribution will be completed by the end of his term.”

    “He [the President]will end his term in 2016, so how come the Carper is about to end?” she asked.

    According to Luzara, in their fight, “the fittest will survive” and she vowed that they will not go home empty-handed this time.

    “Instead of ending the Carper, they should complete land reform,” she said.

    A protester, 73-year-old Francisco Luzara, said, “I have been waiting for 15 years [for the land]. I will not go home until I get what I was promised.”

    Records show that from January to May 20, 2014, the DAR was able to issue 11,178 NOCs for 108,216 hectares of land.

    There are only 14,085 NOCs left to be prepared or served covering 88,962 hectares.

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