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GMA’s push for CARP extension backed

[ Manila Bulletin Online ] July 31, 2008

President Arroyo was hailed yesterday by the 200,000-strong federation of agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) in the Ilocos region for calling on Congress to "act with dispatch" on the pending bill seeking the extension of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

The farm leaders who sit in the 13-sectoral entities of the Provincial Agrarian Reform Coordinating Committees (PARCCOM) in Ilocos Norte and Sur, La Union and Pangasinan, said Mrs. Arroyo’s endorsement of the CARP measure "brightened up hopes of the country’s farming communities to continue availing of services under the post-land distribution scheme of agrarian reform."

In her State of the Nation Address last Monday, the President outlined her administration’s policy on land reform, calling it one of the government’s top priorities to fight poverty.

The Chief Executive recalled how her father, President Diosdado Macapagal, worked passionately to advance land reform in the country, citing Japan as the model of success.

In a separate interview, Pangasinan Rep. Conrad Estrella III echoed the President’s sentiment on the program, stressing that the expiration of the CARP law last June diminished the financial exposure of international lending institutions, particularly the World Bank, to help accelerate the growth of the country’s rural economy.

The Pangasinan solon, a grandson of former Agrarian Reform Minister Conrado F. Estrella, is a member of the bicameral committee that worked on the salient provisions of the proposed new agrarian reform law.

The CARP has been extended twice, each for a 10- year period, since its implementation during the term of President Corazon Aquino.

Estrella expressed confidence the approval of the bill, certified as "urgent" by Malacañang, will go on "smooth sail" in the plenary deliberations of the House.

Even before CARP’s expiration, various farmers cooperatives nationwide urged lawmakers to shun politics and "work harmoniously for the extension of the program."

The leaders of the cooperatives, which now are into agricultural trading, said the failure of the legislature to act on the pending measure could "dash off the gains of agrarian reform over the last three decades and shut off prospects for aggressive rural urbanization."

"There ought to be a law that guarantees investments to turn idle lands productive," said Celio Catayna, chief operating officer of the biggest farmers cooperative in Pangasinan, even as he noted the active participation of landowners in the program. (Orly Guirao)

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