SECRETARY Rafael Mariano of the Department of Agrarian Reform vowed on Friday to back the right of farmers to own the land they are tilling by supporting a new land reform law that will allow the government to acquire more lands for distribution for free or at least cost.
He said he is determined to support the passage of House Bill 555, or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill, refiled by Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao.
He said the effort is in line with the present administration’s thrust and policy direction to protect the rights and welfare and ensure the security of tenure of farmers without depriving the landowners of their right to due process of law and to just compensation.
“The control of agrarian reform lands must always be in the hands of the farmer-beneficiaries of the program,” he added.
Records showed 4,726,604 hectares had been acquired and distributed to 2,970,644 agrarian reform beneficiaries.
But there is insufficient data if those lands still remained in the hands of the farmers and the conditions of farmer beneficiaries.
Despite the extension of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, the land acquisition and distribution balance is 621,000 hectares.
“There is an urgent need to review and retool the existing agrarian reform program to protect the rights and welfare of farmers and ensure food security,” Mariano said.
GARB, if passed, should also consider the coverage of lands previously exempted or excluded from agrarian reform coverage, he noted.
The new law must rectify or correct the flaws, defects and problems encountered by the previous agrarian reform program, he said.
Under the bill, the proposed measure must also reclassify inalienable lands of the public domain which are now being tilled by the farmers into agricultural and distribute them for free to the actual tillers and occupants.
GARB proposes free land distribution to all qualified beneficiaries, a radical shift from Republic Act 6657 and from other previous agrarian reform laws.
The department’s authority to distribute more lands stopped after the publication of notices of coverage of lands acquired under CARP that lapsed on June 30, 2014.