The Revitalized Land Reform Program
EXECUTIVE Order No. 364 which transformed the Department of Agrarian Reform into the Department of Land Reform (DLR) was issued only six months ago without much fanfare. Yet, this act is a significant milestone as it made the DLR responsible for all land reform programs in the country agrarian, urban, and ancestral land. Land reform is a part of the administrations strategy for economic recovery, namely the creation of jobs, the development of another three million hectares of farm lands for agribusiness and asset reform. These are the components of President Arroyos roadmap to reducing poverty by 50 percent in six years.
Agrarian reform and social justice was the centerpiece of the 1987 Constitution. Many provisions in the Articles on Social Justice, the National Economy, and the Declaration of Principles underscore the centrality of distributive justice and human rights and implementing institutional support structures to make agrarian reform work. Section 5 of the Article on Social Justice emphasized the importance of support services appropriate technology and research, and adequate financial, production and marketing services. In Section 6, the State is mandated to apply the principles of agrarian reform or stewardship in the distribution of utilization of other natural resources and consider the rights of indigenous communities to their ancestral lands. The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform program initiated in 1988 has to date, provided adequate livelihood opportunities for over two million farmers. Another 865,000 hectares will be distributed in the next four years. This means that a million more small farmers will have security of tenure in their farms and the opportunity of increased incomes.
Then there is a bill certified as a priority by Malacanang the Farm Collateral Act which would allow farmers to use their farms as collateral for bank loans. When approved, it would allow farmers to raise the capital they need to improve farm productivity. This bill filed last Congress has been quite controversial however, through the intervention of DLR Secretary Rene C. Villa who conducted consultations with various non-government organizations as well as with members of the Congress, he was able to reconcile the various perspectives among NGOs as well as harmonize the various versions from the Lower House. …