MANILA, Jan. 30, 2014— A number Catholic bishops are again seeking a dialogue with President Benigno Aquino over the delay in implementing the land reform program.
As the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) is set to expire this June, the bishops lamented that the government has been underperforming in land acquisition and distribution.
From July 2010 to June 2013, the Department of Agrarian Reform was only able to provide notices of coverage (NOC) or merely 314, 422 hectares of land against the original CARP balance of 1.2 million hectares.
According to the bishops, this “gives us deep cause of concern whether most remaining (and most resistant) agricultural landholdings will receive NOC’s by that deadline.”
In a letter to Aquino, the bishops, belonging to the church’s National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace, asked Aquino to extend CARP until the end of his term in 2016.
“Mr. President, we support the thinking of DAR that legislation is needed to give CARP two more years to put all the pieces in place to achieve its social reform objective. These two years coincide with the remaining two years of your administration and will assure a lasting legacy of the centerpiece program of Former President Corazon C. Aquino,” said Nassa.
In calling for a dialogue, they said “major decisions have to be made and actions taken before the deadline on both the strategic direction of CARP and the institutional capability of the government to accomplish these strategies, as well as the commitments of your administration to the farmers.”
The letter pointed out that farmers are planning to march to Malacanang and that a “dialogue with you would be a meaningful first step in responding to their plea for justice.”
They reminded Aquino that the deadline for the CARP’s and acquisition and distribution is on June 30 this year yet “the nationwide land reform effort is mired in deep uncertainty that strikes at the heart and soul of the entire program.”
Among the signatories of the four-page letter dated Jan. 22 include Nassa chairman and Caceres Archbishop Rolando Tirona, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Palo Archbishop John Du, Tandag Bishop Nereo Odchimar, Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, Cabanatuan Bishop Sofronio Bancud, Capiz Archbishop Jose Advincula, Jolo Bishop Angelito Lampon, and Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad.
Attorney Christian Monsod, co-convenor of Sulong CARPER, CBCP-NASSA executive secretary Fr. Edwin Gariguez, and executive committee representative Sr. Ma. Eden Orlino were also signatories.
The church leaders also complained about the sluggish resolution of many land cases and they want to discuss with Aquino the fate of the CARP once he steps down in 2016.
“Your Excellency, the farmer still recall your administration’s promise to lay the foundations for the success of CARP during your administration and, in particular, to issue all the NOCs by the end of 2013. With the June 14, 2014 deadline only 5 months away, it is also time to talk about the future of CARP beyond 2016,” it said.
Nassa also reiterated its request for an overhaul of DAR leadership because Secretary Gil Delos Reyes “clearly does not fit the role of a transformational leader for the demanding task ahead for CARP.”
Nassa is also seeking a decisive action from the government to ensure CARP’s success especially that 2014 has been declared as the “International Year of Family Farming” by the United Nations.
“There would be no stronger statement than your administration champions the cause of family farmers by sustaining the very program that would give land to the landless, and thus allow the family farm sector to flourish within our country,” it added. (CBCPNews)