A LANDMARK agrarian reform program expired yesterday with thousands of hectares still to be distributed to farmers, but Malacañang said the process would continue as Congress works on a fresh extension of the law.
Reiterating that the expiration of the Comprehensive Land Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER) only applied to the issuance of new notices of coverage (NoCs) to landowners, Communications Secretary Herminio B. Coloma, Jr. yesterday said the administration of President Benigno S. C. Aquino was looking to finally finish the program — begun in 1988 during the term of Mr. Aquino’s mother, Corazon C. Aquino — in 2016.
Mr. Coloma claimed that “as of June 25, only approximately 78,000 hectares need notices of coverage out of the CARP balance of 771, 000 hectares without NoCs.”
Presidential Spokesperson Edwin S. Lacierda, speaking at a Palace briefing, said: “The end of CARPER does not mean the end of land distribution. We are in the process of distributing lands based on those properties, based on those land holdings that have been issued NOCs. We want to assure our farmers that land distribution continues.”
“That’s the commitment, by 2016,” he added when asked if the administration could promise that all lands supposed to be covered by agrarian reform would be distributed.
The CARPER law that expired yesterday, or Republic Act (RA) 9700, was passed in 2009 as an extension of RA 8532, which itself extended the original 10-year CARP law, RA 6657, that was enacted in 1988. Section 30 of the CARPER law states that “Any case and/or proceeding … which may remain pending on June 30, 2014 shall be allowed to proceed to its finality and be executed even beyond such date.”
Militant farmers yesterday barricaded the head office of the Agrarian Reform department in Quezon City to protest the government’s inability to distribute lands.
Mr. Aquino has written the House of Representatives to hasten passage of House Bill 4296 extending the agrarian reform law. He has also urged the Senate to fast-track the passage of their version of the bill, which seeks to extend the issuance NoCs to June 30, 2016.