The National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) reminded the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to stand by its earlier decision to place some properties of the Hacienda Luisita, Inc. (HLI) back under the coverage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) amid tensions in the said areas between farmers’ groups and the provincial police.
In time for the commemoration of the Hacienda Luisita massacre’s 13th year, NAPC Secretary Liza Maza also emphasized the need for a genuine agrarian reform program to fulfill the Filipino people’s needs on land and food.
Anti-riot forces recently tried to disperse some farmers who were trying to reclaim a disputed portion of the sugar plantation, resulting to the arrest of one peasant leader. Maza called on DAR to review its issuances and settle the dispute in Luisita immediately.
In an order issued last February, DAR directed its provincial and municipal units to distribute a combined 727-hectare land inside the Tarlac estate after recent ocular inspections revealed that some portions of land remain undeveloped while the rest were deemed fit for distribution.
“Prime agricultural lands should be devoted for food production to support the Duterte administration’s push toward a nation that is self-sufficient in food,” Maza added.
A 374-hectare portion of the 727-hectare agricultural land was initially granted a conversion order in 1996 but DAR found no legal basis to approve the request for extension for development.
Farmers’ groups have petitioned for CARP coverage of the said property after it remained idle in the past 20 years. Under the current agrarian reform program, DAR can revoke conversion clearances if landowners failed to completely implement a development plan within the five-year period after the issuance of a conversion order.
The anti-poverty chief also urged DAR to support the enactment of an agrarian policy that would cater to the needs of farmers and stressed the need for the implementation of socio-economic reforms that favor rural development.
Seven farmers were killed while 121 were injured, including 11 children and four elderly men, after state forces violently dispersed the picket of striking farmers in 2004. For years, peasant organizations have reported that the said landholdings became subjects of violent ejections of farmers and enclosure activities by multi-national corporations and big landlord oligarchs.
“The NAPC recognizes DAR’s efforts in speeding up land distribution in the controversial hacienda, however, it needs to flex its muscles more and uphold the rule of law over Luisita to end the decades-old struggle of farmers in the area,” Maza said. ###