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10 August 2009

An Agrarian Crisis in the Making

by Carmina B. Flores-Obanil and Mary Ann Manahan

As the importance of agrarian reform and rural development is underscored, given the multiple crises in our midst, the
country’s agrarian reform program has been further undermined.

In 2008, demonstrations, rallies, long marches abounded as pro-agrarian reform forces waged a campaign to introduce major reforms and have the funding of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) extended.

The landowning elites who have long opposed agrarian
reform waged their battle against the program more silently, using their influence (probably their riches) to ensure that the
program will not continue. There are also those who rallied for the junking of CARP and called for a "genuine
agrarian reform program" but in the end made unwitting allies of the landowners.

Despite winning some battles (the Banasi farmers who marched from Bicol got their lands through a DAR decision) and
despite the efforts expended by the farmers themselves, with the long marches and the hunger strike, to highlight and
dramatize the critical demand for agrarian reform, a critical round in the war for agrarian reform has been lost.

The fate of CARP, the country’s 20-year old social justice and poverty reduction program, was decided by
Congress, in favor of the landed and powerful. A day before the session ended last December, Congress passed Joint
Resolution No. 19 (Senate version) and 29 (House version) which ostensibly gave CARP a leash of six (6) months but
which removed the "heart and soul" of the agrarian reform program: the compulsory acquisition
scheme which has so far given the government power to compel resisting landowners to have their lands subjected
under CARP.

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