S. Mindanao high risk area for agrarian reform – DAR exec

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/7 June) – Agrarian reform in the region is laden
with constraints and threats, an official of the Department of
Agrarian Reform (DAR) admitted a day after farmers’ organizations
decried DAR’s alleged incompetence to implement its mandate.

Rodolfo Inson, DAR 11 regional director, told reporters the region’s
agrarian justice situation is “troublesome” and is one of two high
risk regions in the Philippines for agrarian reform because of
resistance of landowners to the program.

The other region is sugar-rich Western Visayas.

The department has started relocating its central office here from
Quezon City earlier this year, following President Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo’s thrust on the super regions.Inson said aside from landowners wielding power to resist the program,
another problem is disunity among petitioners in contested estates
subjected for coverage.

“The least we could get here is a case in court, the worst is death,”
he said, pointing to unidentified landowners as culprits.

Inson talked to reporters Thursday a day after farmers and agrarian
reform petitioners called DAR incompetent in implementing agrarian
reform during the 19th anniversary of the Comprehensive Agrarian
Reform Program (CARP).

But he said the concerns raised by the groups separately in a picket
and press conferences are “meritorious and legitimate”.

Inson said the department is faced with constraints, including budget
to pay landowners whose lands are covered by the CARP, and their
resistance, oftentimes forceful, to subject their lands for
redistribution.

He said they can only pay the landowners with “fair and just
compensation” as provided by Republic Act 6657 (Comprehensive Agrarian
Reform Law) based on available budget.

Inson said as of December, DAR accomplished 96 percent, or 207,144 of
the 214,990 hectares it has targeted for redistribution in the region
before 2008.

He said a big portion of the remaining 7,800 hectares are owned by
powerful landowners.

Leaders of farmers organizations, however, questioned DAR’s
accomplishments. They challenged DAR to be more transparent of its
computations.

Inson said landowners’ resistance has become a major stumbling block
in agrarian reform, admitting he understands the landowners’
sentiments.

“In my 32 years in the work, I have never seen a landowner smile at
me,” he said, adding it is not easy for them to accept the government
is keen on implementing the program.

He said landowners try to evade coverage by contesting the coverage
notices they issued to initiate the process of redistribution or put
up security forces to block the process.

Farmers and agrarian reform petitioners have also censured DAR’s
capacity to provide support services such as road, bridges, water
systems, training, among others.

Inson said around P2.7 billion international support were channeled to
foreign-assisted projects (FAPS) in 56 agrarian reform communities
(ARCs) since 1988.

But the same number of ARCs rely only on local funds, which he claimed
makes beneficiaries earn lesser income than those belonging to FAPS.

He also said they need lawyers to attend to agrarian cases filed in
adjudication boards in the provinces of Davao del Sur, Davao del
Norte, and Compostela Valley, but there are no takers for the job.

Inson debunked accusations that DAR employees are conniving with
landowners to impede CARP’s implementation.

He said the job is difficult, risky, and life threatening.

He said he is ready to submit himself and the DAR employees for a
lifestyle check as part of an investigation for alleged corruption.

Inson said, however, he feared for his life after receiving death
threats for a number of years already. He believes the landowners
issued the threats, adding that the farmers “could understand our
work.”

He said he has asked the national office to transfer him to Caraga
region where he believes he is safer.

He announced that in July, they will install 27 beneficiaries in the
29-hectare property of the ARCAL Development Corporation in Gov.
Generoso, Davao Oriental, one of the issues brought up by farmers from
Task Force Mapalad Wednesday when they picketed the DAR office.
(Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)

About mindanaw

A Journalist from Mindanao

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