By Cielito M. Reganit
MANILA, May 12 (PNA) – Agrarian reform advocates at the House of Representatives urged the House leadership on Tuesday to fast-track the passage of two pending bills in compliance with President Benigno S. Aquino III’s directive last March to complete the agrarian reform program.
The advocates said they are pushing for the passage of House Bill Nos. 4296 and 4375 seeking the extension of the Land Acquisition and Distribution (LAD) component of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and the creation of an independent Agrarian Reform Commission respectively, before Congress adjourns sine die on June 11.
Akbayan Partylist Rep. Barry Guttierez said that through HB 4296, agrarian reform forces hope to finally see the completion of CARP and spur rural development and agrarian reform, with a clear eye of uplifting the landless farmers, farm workers and their families from poverty and destitution.
He said that HB 4296 seeks to continue the issuance of Notices of Coverage (NOCs) over land covered by CARP.
Majority of remaining lands are in Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Eastern Samar, Leyte, Basilan, Iloilo, Capiz, Tawi-Tawi, Surigao, among other areas.
“Akbayan continues to support the longstanding call of the various agrarian reform forces across the country and urge the House leadership to pass HB 4296,” Gutierrez said.
Meanwhile, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Brawner Baguilat said that while they understand that the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) holds ascendancy over all other bills at this time, they trust that the House leadership will immediately schedule House Bill 4296 in plenary.
“It has been two months since House Majority Floor Leader Neptali Gonzales II said that HB 4296 will be tackled in plenary once Congress resumes this May. The Department of Agrarian Reform already submitted its updates on the balance of lands without NOCs. We hope the bill will also be scheduled and passed in plenary together with the BBL,” Baguilat, the chair of the House Committee on Agrarian reform, said.
Auxiliary Bishop of Manila Broderick Pabillo, chair of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Permanent Committee on Public Affairs, joined Baguilat in asserting the urgency of the bill’s passage to complete CARP implementation and fulfill the Constitutional mandate to distribute all agricultural lands to landless farmers.
“In this Year of the Poor, members of Congress and the Executive should ensure that social justice measures like CARP are fully and effectively implemented to improve the lives of our poor farmers,” Pabillo said.
Bishop Pabillo is a co-convenor of SULONG CARPer, a broad formation of agrarian reform advocates from farmers’ organizations, NGOs, church-based groups, and other civil society organizations.
In the meantime, HB 4375 co-authors Coop-NATCCO Partylist Rep. Anthony Bravo, Dinagat Islands Rep. Kaka Bag-ao, Tarlac Rep. Noel Villanueva and Gutierrez likewise affirmed their support for the immediate passage of the proposed law before Congress closes its Second Regular session on June 11.
Bag-ao pointed out that she and Rep. Lennie Gerona-Robredo filed HB 4375 “to create an independent Agrarian Reform Commission to review the actual accomplishment of CARP and investigate circumventions and violations of the CARP Law with a view to cause the affected landholdings to be redistributed to qualified beneficiaries.”
“Both bills are needed to be passed in order for agrarian reform to really succeed,” Bag-ao said. (PNA)