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Comprehensive Agrarian Reform, What Now

The State and Land Reform

The Philippines is semi-feudal. There are areas where the feudal mode still exists while there are areas where capital farming has become the mode. The old feudal system has gradually given way to the new system.

Land Reform in the Philippines was originally passed to free tenants from feudal bondage. Feudalism is characterized by landlord and peasant/tenant relationship. Peasants pay tribute of varying forms, basically farm produce, to landlords.

Capitalist farming in the other hand is characterized by landowner and farm worker relationship. Farm workers provide labor and capitalists provide payment and benefits to workers usually in form of cash.

Land reform in tenancy areas is deemed progressive. It is a leap from feudalism to capitalism. Tenants became landowners. This is one product of the conflict between feudalism and capitalism – of contradiction between the old and the new.

Negros Island today, like most part of the country, is mainly Capitalist farming. Feudalism, Peasants and Landlords are practically non-existent. They have become imaginary characters that exist only in the minds of people who persist in the idea of social change modeled after the Russian and the Chinese revolutions of the early 20th century.

Land reform in capitalism means that one big landowner is to become many landowners. Farm workers are to become private-land owners. In this instance, the move has been more of taking the long way if not delaying progress. Social evolution already naturally attained is re-winded. Natural evolution is tinkered counter clockwise. The growth of the working class is stifled or stunted.

[It should be noted that pure Working class interest is multiplication of itself and for best benefits.]

But by nature, the trajectory of the new social-economic order fueled by land reform points to an emerging form similar to that before reform. For many reasons, the new farm units are slowly reverting into bigger units as poor farmer-beneficiaries leased or finally ‘sold’ their ‘rights’. Natural social evolution is trying to re-assert herself. Economically, the smaller the farm unit is, the more non-viable and impractical it becomes.

One nearest vehicle for re-formation of bigger farm units in that situation apparently, would be corporate farming.

Impracticality of Small Farm Units, Social economics

In Capital farming, for example, it is possible to grant benefits to workers in big farm units, better than what the law says, when the same would be virtually killing the small planters, which may be bad politics and requires self sacrifice for the politician who will be doing the killing. Legislators had in fact delegated this problem to Regional Wage boards.

When big planter says wage hike is killing him, he could be lying. For the small planters, he speaks the truth.

Small landowners for many reasons generally perform poorly compared to big planters. Setting that aside, if we assume a constant of (Php) P35, 000.00 net income per hectare a year, and a landowner has 5 hectares maximum allowed him by Land reform, he will earn P175, 000.00 a year that will put him bellow poverty line that was placed at P200, 000.00 ($ 4,450.00) per family per year (which is below international standards) . This is not the case of a planter who operates 1,000 hectares who will earn P35 Mn, and who can be regulated to shed say P10 Mn to the workers, which is far from killing him.

That one big planter now is renting to many small landowners is one complication that is not favorable to the workers. Planter losses a good part of his profit to lease. Some planters I know pay as much as P10, 000.00 per hectare a year in lease to land owners. Big planters who are engaged in Ariendo systems are indeed “backwards” when many have already turned to other businesses that earn faster and better.

One small landowner eliminated means more income for bigger landowner and a probable income for the workers. Sellout by small landowner, as he is naturally squeezed in the system, is eminent but hindered. Land retention limit restricts formation of bigger farm units. Furthermore, land retention limit also discourages people who are in better position to develop agriculture. Five hectares is considered a waste of time to practical, moneyed individuals who would otherwise think of investing in agriculture.

To put it in another way, perhaps it will strike small farmer that maybe he will do better as a fishing boat owner or a trader or what. Buying and selling land should be freed of restrictions. For small farmer to become farm-worker (he came back poorer than before) or become a successful small businessman or whatever is departure from the old Feudal system. Progress is towards the new system that is Capitalism. This would be natural social evolution ticking clockwise.

Land Reform is counter revolutionary in the context of social evolution

Land reform can be counter progressive The idea is Liberal-democratic in origin. In the country, it has become more of politics than economics. Politically, it is a means to gain the support of the many and empower oneself or selves in the process. Armed revolution by Mao Ze Dong in China employed it – riding the mass that is basically peasantry to capture political power. Mao Ze Dong explained this as taking one step backward to make many steps forward.

Adopted by the left since the Hukbong Magpapalaya ng Bayan (HMB) or Peoples Liberation Army of the 40s, but failing to capture political power after more than 6 decades of struggle, land reform now appears to be one big, giant of a step backward for all Filipinos. I think “land reform” actually contributed to the stunted development of agriculture in this part of the world. Nor did it help the left to capture seats in congress, not until when the Partylist system was introduced.

Sacrificing the landlords to outdo the left is no big deal in Philippine politics. The political-economic power of the pure Landlord class has diminished with feudalism. The Philippines is a developing capitalism. The super structure is now primarily commerce and trade. Land reform today as we have known it is just everybody’s politics.

The current issue in congress is whether or not the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program or CARP should be extended, or should it be totally scrapped. Added to the voices calling for its continuance there are also voices clamoring for genuine land reform. Question there is: What constitute or constitutes “genuine” land reform?

Related posts:

1. Doing away with Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program is counter progressive

2. The Sugarcane Farmers and the farmworkers of Negros

3. Sa Akon Lang Opinyon

One Response

  1. […] saying is that breaking up big farm units and limiting land ownership to 5 hectares –  called Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, is made crazy. It doesn’t even win seats in  town councils nowadays if that’s what it […]

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