Monday, December 22, 2008 [ manilatimes.net ]
By Angelo S. Samonte, Reporter
Chunks of CARP land would still be given to farmers — govt
It would be up to landowners if they wanted to comply with a provision of a congressional resolution that calls on them to distribute voluntarily to farmers land covered by the government’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), Malacañang said over the weekend.
Through the joint resolution, lawmakers this week extended CARP by six months, but without making the land distribution compulsory as had been demanded by the farmers and their supporters from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
In apparently passing the ball to the landowners, Cabinet Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd on Sunday at the same time assured that there still are lands that could be distributed to the farmers, contrary to supposed speculations.
“I don’t think that [those rumors] are accurate [because] there are a lot of lands that could still be covered by CARP,” Bello said. He also assured that the government would continue to listen to the farmers as it did in the past on their clamor for land.
“We are here to meet with them, ask what their problems are, like the moves that we did before. We were able to address their concerns [then], although not totally,” Bello said.
He added that the fact that President Gloria Arroyo had certified as urgent an administration bill batting for CARP extension meant that her administration was interested in pushing for reforms in the agrarian-reform program.
The provision on the non-compulsory distribution of land under the joint resolution, according to deputy spokesman Lorelei Fajardo, does not mean that the farmers will have to wait for six months for President Gloria Arroyo to call a special session of Congress on CARP.
On Friday, Malacañang said that the President has no plans to call such session or to pass the 2009 budget. Congress went on recess on Wednesday without passing next year’s budget, putting the country in danger of running on a reenacted 2008 budget.
House Speaker Nograles had said that the six-month extension would give the lawmakers adequate time to study details of several proposals for the extension of the agrarian program.
Malacañang had said that the extension would allow the lawmakers and other stakeholders to work for a consensus that will better embody the spirit and purpose of land reform as enshrined under the Constitution.
The joint resolution approved by the Senate and the House of Representatives, it added, kept the agrarian-reform program alive and open for reforms and improvements in its implementation.