ILOILO City – Negros Occidental is a “hotspot of CARP implementation,” according to Regional Director Stephen Leonidas of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in Western Visayas.
CARP or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program calls for the redistribution of private and public agricultural lands to empower beneficiaries to have equitable land ownership, enhance agricultural productivity, provide employment to more agricultural workers, and put an end to conflicts regarding land ownership.
In the whole country, Negros Occidental has the biggest balance of CARP-identified lands still to be distributed – 95,000 hectares, said Leonidas.
All these lands are “100 percent private agricultural lands” and prime sugar plantation areas, he added, thus “resistance from landowners could not be avoided.”
So what should be done to hasten the land distribution?
Under DAR Administrative Order No. 9, even if DAR’s personnel could not enter the property to conduct survey and field investigation, they could still proceed with the CARP coverage up to the registration of the land title.
But Leonidas suggested something stronger – declare martial law in areas covered by CARP.
“Purely to fast-track its implementation,” he explained.
With martial law, Leonidas said, the resistance of landowners could be neutralized.
“Right now, left and right the landowners and their lawyers are filing cases against our field implementers. In fact, one of our PARO (Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer) in Negros has a warrant of arrest. This is purely to delay the implementation,” lamented Leonidas.
His other suggested solution is the use of drones to survey private lands covered by CARP.
“If we can acquire drones, it would be easier for us. We no longer have to enter the property but we can still proceed with the aerial survey,” said Leonidas at the sidelines of the launching of the Land Acquisition and Distribution (LAD) Free Iloilo 2020 on June 18.
Leonidas was one of several regional directors invited to the formulation of the LAD simplified process.
He urged municipal agrarian reform officers to be “active in their CARP coverage because Negros has the biggest target so far.”
“Whether we like it or not, we must finish the land acquisition and distribution before the term of the President ends is 2022,” said Leonidas. (With a report from the Philippine News Agency/PN)