Gilbert P. Felongco
November 25, 2011
Manila: A senator cautioned farmer-benificiaries against premature rejoicing on the Supreme Court’s recent decision to distribute some 5,000 hectares owned by the Aquino-Cojuangco family in Central Luzon.
Senator Francis Pangilinan said that distributing land is just the first step toward true agrarian reform, adding that farmers who received land in the past have remained poor without necessary support from the government.
According to Pangilinan, it is critical for government to extend immediate support services to guide the farmers in maximising the lands being distributed to them.
“There should be integrated programs that will involve the Department of Agriculture, Department of Agrarian Reform, other government agencies and even non-government organisation, to ensure that the distributed lands will provide increased incomes for the farmers,” Pangilinan, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, said.
On Wednesday, various farmers groups as well as Pangilinan himself welcomed the Supreme Court’s ruling to distribute almost 5,000 hectares of land from Hacienda Luisita to over 6,000 farmer-worker beneficiaries.
Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, Central Luzon, is owned by the family of President Benigno Cojuangco-Aquino III.
“This is a victory for our farmers. Perhaps the ruling was long overdue, but this is a good start toward attaining equity and toward the realization of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Programme.”
“We would like to see more such victories for those still awaiting land distribution. We must give our farmer-workers their due. They are our crucial link to our food supply, as such we must do all we can to secure them. Our next crucial challenge, then, will be to make the land viable and productive in order to improve the farmers’ incomes and release them from bondage,” Pangilinan said.
‘More needs to be done’
But in the Pangilinan added that more needs to be done to make the Hacienda Luisita and the agrarian reform programme in general, work for the benefit of the farmers.
“The act of distributing lands will not mean anything more than a moral victory for the farmers if the government treats such as the end goal. The reason CARP (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Programme) has failed is that the focus was on land distribution rather than on productivity and increasing farmers’ income.”
Pangilinan added: “It is a sad irony that our most crucial link to our food supply is also the weakest link in the chain. We urge the government to extend support to our farmers and provide the necessary linkages according to their needs. The whole country will benefit from the upliftment of our farmers out of poverty. This will solve our need to be food self-sufficient, plus the increased incomes in the countryside will boost demands for goods and services.”
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