A FARMERS’ group on Wednesday called on President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. to declare a moratorium for at least two years on agricultural land conversion to protect production areas and ensure stable food supply.
“To increase the yield and production of rice and corn, the government must first protect our agricultural lands,” the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said in a statement.
Former agrarian reform secretary and KMP member Rafael V. Mariano said the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has identified “shrinking agricultural land as among the challenges faced by the sector.”
“Issuing an executive order prohibiting land-use conversion for at least two years will effectively protect more than 4.84 hectares of agricultural lands awarded to farmer-beneficiaries,” he said.
The proposed ban covers all awarded lands under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, agricultural lands with Notices of Coverage issued by DAR, irrigated and irrigable lands, prime agricultural lands, privately-owned lands with farmer-tenants, and agricultural lands being cultivated by farmers, individually or collectively.
Meanwhile, a party-list lawmaker has filed a bill limiting agricultural land ownership to a maximum of five hectares per holder, a proposal that an alliance of farmers called well-meaning but unfeasible.
House Bill 1161 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) filed by Gabriela Party-list Rep. Arlene D. Brosas, seeks to mandate the government to acquire all public and private agricultural lands exceeding five hectares and distribute these at no cost to farmers.
The bill states that its purpose is “foremost to achieve social justice for our landless farmers through free land distribution” and to “reorient our agriculture to put it on fundamentally sound footing and make it more responsive to the needs of our people and the country’s requirements for industrialization.”
Federation of Free Farmers National Manager Raul Q. Montemayor, however, said it would be better for the government to first settle the “huge backlog” in the existing agrarian reform program before “venturing into new programs.”
“Secondly, food security and sovereignty will not arise from mere redistribution of lands, as we have seen with the current agrarian reform program where beneficiaries have remained poor due to the lack of support services,” he told BusinessWorld in a Viber message.
“Thirdly, this will result in an implementation nightmare and stiff opposition from landowners having more than five hectares, not to mention agribusiness companies owning large areas,” Mr. Montemayor added.
Ms. Brosas said the proposed law “will finally liberate domestic agriculture from the shackles of landlords and corporate agriculture,” as she called on members of Congress to consider the measure.
The farmers’ group leader said the bill has “good intention but unrealistic and problematic.”
The same bill was filed in 2007 by the late labor leader Crispin B. Beltran, who was then representative for Anakpawis. — Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson and Alyssa Nicole O. Tan