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Arroyo signs law extending CARP

August 08, 2009 05:47:00
Carmela Reyes Inquirer Central Luzon TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer

PLARIDEL, BULACAN — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo endeavored to relive history when she signed on Friday the law extending the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) for five years in this agricultural town.

It was also in Plaridel that her father, the late President Diosdado Macapagal, signed Republic Act No. 3844, or the Agricultural Land Reform Code, on Aug. 8, 1963.

The elder Macapagal’s signing of the Agrarian Reform Code set the tone for the country’s land reform program, but it failed to take off because Congress did not provide funds for it, according to the Department of Agrarian Reform.

Where it began

“Land reform began here. We’re doing it here because Aug. 8, 1963 was the happiest day for my father. The whole family witnessed the signing. I was there, still a teenager,” she said in a pre-signing media interview.

“That’s why I’m very happy that we’re here to continue CARPer,” she added.

The law, a consolidation of House Bill No. 4077 and Senate Bill No. 2666 called CARP Extension with Reforms (CARPer), extends the CARP from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2014.

It provides a P150-billion outlay for the acquisition and distribution of 1.6 million hectares of all agricultural lands as well as support services for 1.2 million farmer-beneficiaries, according to Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman.

Ms Arroyo said signing the CARPer was a fulfillment of her promise to make land reform one of her priority programs to improve the living conditions of Filipino farmers.

Honoring Cory

She also said that extending the life of CARP also honored the memory of former President Corazon Aquino, who passed away on Aug. 1.

“Extending the program anew is one way of showing our solidarity with the late former President Aquino in our dream of liberating our farmer-beneficiaries from the claws of poverty,” she said.

The Senate ratified the bicameral conference committee report on the CARPer bill on Monday as a tribute to Aquino, whose administration’s centerpiece program was the original CARP law which granted to tenant-farmers the right to the land they had been tilling for their landlords.

Aquino signed the 10-year Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law in June 1988, making it her administration’s centerpiece program. In 1998, it was extended for another 10 years to complete the distribution of lands.

When it expired in December last year, the Senate and the House adopted a joint resolution provisionally extending it pending the enactment of a new law.

Ms Arroyo, who is set to step down on June 30, 2010, is hoping to make the extension of CARP as one of her legacies.

The new law states that all public and private agricultural lands for land acquisition and distribution, except landholdings with an area of five hectares and less, are covered by CARP.

It spells out three phases for the acquisition and distribution of lands in five years, ranging in size from 10 hectares up to over 50 hectares, through the modes of voluntary land transfer, offer to sell, and compulsory acquisition.

A landholding will be distributed up to a maximum of three hectares for each qualified beneficiary, according to the law.

“There must be a path where justice and progress converge,” Ms Arroyo said in the interview.

Funds for land

According to the law, 40 percent of all funds for agrarian reform in the five years will be set aside for support services, such as land survey and titling; socialized terms on agricultural credit facilities; extension services, infrastructure and use of fertilizer, among others.

Senators, congressmen and government officials crowded around the President when she signed the law on a stage in a packed gym outside the municipal hall at around 10 a.m.

The witnesses included Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senators Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Francis Pangilinan and Gregorio Honasan; House Deputy Speaker Amelita Villarosa; and Representatives Rodolfo Antonino, Elias Bulot, Edcel Lagman and Junie Cua; and other lawmakers, and Pangandaman.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said the CARPer’s signing showed that administration and opposition leaders could unite to improve the lives of farmers in the country.

“It is history turning into full circle. More than that, we proved that opposition and administration leaders can unite to help farmers in our country,” he said, in stressing that administration and opposition lawmakers supported the bill.

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