Sugar industry leaders seek review of CARP

Published by rudy Date posted on January 7, 2008

Sugar industry leaders in the country yesterday called for a review of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), as it criticized its “inherent flaws” which, they claimed, even defeats its noble purpose of liberating farmers from the bondage of tenancy.

The United Sugarcane Planters Federation (UNIFED), one of the largest coalitions of sugarcane farmers in the country today, said that a CARP review is needed at this point to be able to correct its defects and “make it attuned to the realities on the ground and aims of legitimate farmers.”

Manuel Lamata, president of UNIFED, pointed out that although CARP intended to improve the lives of farmers nationwide by enabling him to own the land he tills, this goal failed to happen under the existing scheme.

“The farmer has ceased to be enslaved by tenancy but is a slave of something else. With no more landlord to underwrite financing of his farm inputs, he ran to usurer for this need. Productivity went down, which is to be expected when big farms are splintered into small landholdings that are ran at half the efficiency of big farms. And the Filipino farmer remains wallowing in poverty as ever,” Lamata said.

The UNIFED official, however, was quick to say that CARP cannot be called “a total disaster” though it “definitely can stand improvement in many aspects.”

“One such improvement is a clear-cut rule that’s immune from conflicting interpretations of what land is CARP-able (or which can be rightly distributed to tenants), and which land should be left untouched by CARP in the interest of greater  productivity and better alternative use of the land,” Lamata noted.

Lamata also said that had such rule was put in place now, the Sumilao controversy could have not happened.

The CARP’s distribution clause is set to expire five months from now amidst thousands of agricultural landholdings yet to be distributed to farmers nationwide.

The 19 years of the government’s land reform scheme saw numerous events of farmers going on hunger strike or picketing offices of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), lead implementer of CARP, either asserting their rights over estates or protesting the alleged ineffectiveness of the program to uplift their condition.–Katherine G. Adraneda, Philippine Star

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