Farmers Seeking Dialogue With Aquino

The Catholic Church has joined the thousands of poor farmers in appealing for a dialogue with President Benigno S. Aquino III on the issue of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines-National Secretariat for Social Action (CBCP-NASSA) and the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP), in their letter to the President, said that farmer leaders are requesting a meeting either on June 8 or June 9, 2012, to personally share their experiences and views on the problems of CARP implementation and on the ways by which these problems could be overcome.

"We make this joint appeal to His Excellency to grant this dialogue with our poor sacadas, farm workers and tillers. We appeal that the President listens to the laments of the poor farmers, in the name of the bountiful God who has shared his bounty with you. In the same manner, this goodwill extended to His people will be returned a thousand fold in terms of the peace, stability and progress of our country under your leadership," the letter read.

NASSA and AMRSP also cited that the current Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has been consistently underperforming in implementing the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program with extension and reforms (CARPER), particularly the LAD (land acquisition and distribution), which is shown by the huge backlog in covering the remaining 1,093,000 hectares of agricultural lands. In 2011, it only accomplished 54.6 percent of its national LAD target.

In Negros Occidental, they said, the current DAR only managed to distribute 1,798 hectares in 2011 and that there has been no significant movement in the 135,199-hectare total provincial backlog as of January 2012, and no notices of coverage (NOCs) had been issued on large estates.

NASSA and AMRSP said this is the reason why they expect the DAR performance for the first six months of 2012 to be equally dismal adding that the current DAR administration has recorded the lowest CARP accomplishment when compared to all DAR-CARP administrations.

"With this appalling situation, farmers and tillers become restless and desperate. They fear the winds of August 2014, the end year of the extended period of CARP. They have fought for land reform for decades and fear that it will be all for naught," they said.

Thousands of farmers will hold actions around the country that will culminate in the staging of a Lakbayan (national march) from Mindanao to Metro Manila.

They said the tillers from haciendas and plantations of Negros, Davao Oriental, Davao Norte, Bukidnon, Bicol, Quezon, Batangas, and others will be coming to the nation's capital to knock on the hearts and minds of the nation and call their attention to the gridlock situation of the CARP.

"They come at great risk and expense because they have nowhere else to go but to their President," said NASSA and AMRSP.

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