I think totally doing away with Comprehensive Land Reform at this time is counter progressive. There are farmlands that are idle on the part of their owners that must be made productive. Examples of them are some farm lots in Gss 851-D.
There are certain areas that should be subject to compulsory land reform. And there should be REAL SECONDARY SUPPORTING PROGRAMS for beneficiaries of land reform by government otherwise Land Reform can not be called “Comprehensive” at all.
The bigger part of land reform in Negros went through VOS or Voluntary Offer to Sell program. This program is full of worms. Like, farmlands that did not sell for P100, 000.00 and less, per hectare, or farmlands that were foreclosed long time ago by government, say by the Development Bank of the Philippines, many of them after the collapse of the sugar industry in the 80s, have been paid P150, 000.00 and more, per hectare, to landowners. Banks are only too happy to be rid of non-performing assets and to recover what amounts are due them. No secret about it, usually 20% of the amounts involved went to those who facilitated deals.
And, there are VOS that exist only in papers since farm workers have always been farm workers, and landowners have always been in control. They are equivalent to LOAN- THROUGH-VOS. And if helpless beneficiaries in genuine VOS can not pay government, so do landowners of fake VOS who hide behind puppet beneficiaries. And since Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) does not have time and resources to take over in cases of default, and since disposal of foreclosed agricultural lands have been stale for some reasons, like when they have far exceeded their true market value, therefore landowner remains in control of land indefinitely. This is back to square one – transfer of foul liabilities which they call assets, from DBP, PNB and Rural banks to LBP.
[There are land owners personally known to me who have benefited by VOS schemes. At a time when financial assistance and capitalization do not come easy to people of Negros, frankly, I feel happy for many of them. But while everything helped in keeping local economy alive, it has become clear that the program is not sustainable. VOS has become a dole out. Strictly speaking, many farmlands in Negros today are already ASSETS of the STATE!]
Whereas before Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) was swarmed of voluntary offers to sell (VOS) by desperate landowners and by those who wanted to net some money, it seems like many of them have retracted or turned around lately due to prospects or hopeful promises of Ethanol.This has made scrapping of VOS seems un-necessary.
But definitely, they do not mean that people no longer need COMPULSORY and COMPREHENSIVE land reform like the one we need to cover idle lands in Bayawan valley and elsewhere.
(The author is President of Bayawan Valley Farmers’ Organization)
Filed under: Social-Political |