IN BICOL: DAR Bicol distributes 341,000 ha since 1972

Despite mounting pressures and complex problems in implementing the government's agrarian reform program, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) announced that the agency has already distributed a total of 341,518 hectares of agricultural land throughout the region within a period of forty-nine years, or since the previous land reform law took effect in 1972.


DAR Bicol Regional Director Rodrigo O. Realubit said that about 150,083 Emancipation Patents (EPS) and Certificates of Landownership Award (CLOAs) were issued to 198,917 Bicolano farmers.


In his report, Realubit cited that this resulted from the persistent efforts of the department to provide security of land tenure to landless farmers despite the difficulties in implementing the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).


He said the total accomplishments represent 77.11 percent of the 442,895 hectares of the total "CARP scope" of the region leaving a balance of 101,377 hectares, the second-largest nationwide. Topping the list are Regions 6 and 12.


By province, Camarines Sur came on top, with 125,654 hectares awarded to 74,125 agrarian reform beneficiaries. It was followed by Masbate with 70,652 hectares and 34,146 farmer beneficiaries; Albay with 56,381 hectares and 39,367 farmer beneficiaries; Camarines Norte with 38,198 hectares and 17,844 farmer beneficiaries; Sorsogon with 33,421 and 21,265 farmer beneficiaries; and Catanduanes has already completed all its distributable agricultural lands of 14,666 hectares with 10,919 farmer beneficiaries benefited from its land distribution program.


Realubit said that since the remaining area available for distribution are mostly privately owned and more contentious, the coming years will continue to be incredibly difficult for the department, adding that more than 47,557 hectares and 17,238 hectares of the total balance are classified as "problematic" and "untitled properties," respectively, thereby delaying their coverage under CARP.


Private lands also include those covered by the operation land transfer program, landed estates, and lands foreclosed by government financing institutions.


He said that "these areas are still under protests or litigation and lack documents and can be touched only by DAR upon resolution of the case and or completion of supporting records."


According to the DAR chief, problematic landholdings may raise questions about ownership or the legality of coverage.


Realubit said only 504 hectares of government-owned land remained untouched. Most of it had been distributed in the past decades. They are located in Albay, Camarines Sur, Masbate, and Sorsogon provinces.


On agrarian justice delivery, the DAR is working to eliminate all backlogs in case resolution while streamlining processes to speed up the pace of its judgments.


“Because acquiring and distributing lands is a complicated and tedious process involving four agencies—the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), the Bureau of Lands of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (BL-DENR), the Register of Deeds of the Land Registration Authority (ROD-LRA), and the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP), it is very evident that no single agency can do it alone, given the magnitude of the challenges we face every day in implementing CARP," he said.


With the progressively increasing distribution workloads, the DAR regional chief said he has no option but to embrace the challenges that lie ahead and consolidate his office’s workforces and resources in order to finish the mandated mission in due time, but he admitted that it would be tough.


Realubit said the DAR introduced the concept of collaboration that harmonized the flaws and resolved the bottlenecks in land acquisition and distribution, particularly in document preparation, which is the hardest part of the land transfer program.


He thanked other agencies for fusing all their energies when it comes to CARP implementation.


Realubit also disclosed that a total of 18,703 hectares have been put under leasehold arrangements benefiting 6,260 farmers. This operation aims to assure and improve the tenurial status of farmers in the retained areas and in areas not yet available for distribution. Farmers can obtain a 75 percent share of the harvest after deducting expenses under a leasehold arrangement.


Simultaneously, the DAR, according to Realubit, continues to take steps to empower agrarian reform beneficiaries.


A bigger mandate for DAR is the development of the capabilities of farmers to become efficient and competitive agricultural producers and entrepreneurs.


Realubit said that a total of 351 agrarian reform beneficiary organizations (ARBOs) have been organized regionwide to enable farmer-members to continue gaining access to a convergence of support services from various agrarian reform implementing agencies, donor communities, local government units, and non-government organizations. These support services include skills and livelihood training programs, access to credit, health, technology transfer, irrigation, multi-purpose buildings, food processing centers with tools and instruments, and farm machinery.


He said DAR, through CARP, financed quite a lot of farm-to-market road and bridge construction projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways; credit programs of the Land Bank of the Philippines; skills training of the Department of Trade and Industry; irrigation projects of the National Irrigation Administration; and agri-production training and livestock distribution of the Department of Agriculture.


Funds for these projects were sourced from the agrarian reform fund and foreign donors such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Japan Bank for International Cooperation, and the European Union countries.