November 27, 2011
As farm tillers and workers in different parts of the country reportedly feel “hope” over the Supreme Court decision to distribute over 4,900 hectares of Hacienda Luisita to over 6,000 workers, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Chairman of the Senate Committees on Agriculture and Food, and Social Justice and Rural Development, reminds the government that the true goal of agrarian reform should not be just giving land to farmers, but ensuring that these lands give agricultural workers the means to “drastically” improve their lives and secure their futures.
“Giving farmers their due in terms of land is just Step One in ensuring that these farmers are able to secure and sustain themselves,” Pangilinan says. “The greater work ahead is to ensure that these farms become viable and profitable so that the country achieves its goal of food self-sufficiency while drastically improving the incomes of our farmers and agricultural workers.”
“This is one key to achieving developed-nation status in a decade and a half,” the lawmaker says.
The next step to land distribution, Pangilinan says, is to provide integrated support programs that will involve “the DA, DAR, DTI, LGUs, and even NGOs to ensure that the distributed lands will provide increased incomes for the farmers.”
According to Pangilinan, these support programs should be aimed at organizing more farmer groups and giving them access to capital and markets, post-harvest facilities and infrastructure, research and development, and the ability to ensure quality and consistency and supply.
“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 has failed is that the focus was on land distribution rather than on productivity and increasing farmers’ income. Land distribution is just the first step. Without support services, the farmers will fail and may end up prey to land speculators who will buy up these lands.”
“If we truly want to secure our country’s future, then we must first secure the futures of our farmers and agricultural workers, who comprise over a third of our labor force–and over sixty percent if we consider those who are indirectly involved in the agricultural sector. If we are able to ensure the productivity of our farms and at least double their incomes, then we will help in pump-priming the economy while securing our domestic food requirements.”
“This is what agrarian reform ought to be about. We still have a lot of work ahead,” Pangilinan says.