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Sumilao farmers to march anew to push for CARP extension

Farmers nationwide will take to the streets tomorrow to goad Congress to extend the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

In Cagayan de Oro City, farmers from Sumilao will march 13 kilometers from Barangay Puerto to the city center and converge with other farmer groups, Church and religious leaders, academe and civil society to press for the enactment of a bill seeking to extend CARP before Congress goes on a Christmas break.

Farmers from Camarines Sur have already arrived in Metro Manila for a similar mass action.

Other farmers from Southern and Central Luzon are expected to merge on Dec. 3 in Metro Manila to join calls for Congress to immediately pass the CARP extension bill.

Farmers said the Dec. 3 nationwide mobilization is “very crucial” as they race against time to have House Bill 4077 passed by Congress.

Congress is set to go on recess on Dec. 17, and the farmers could not afford to let lawmakers go without passing HB 4077 before yearend.

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At least one million hectares more of agricultural lands are yet to be acquired and distributed by the government to landless farmers nationwide.

Through Joint Resolution No. 21, the House of Representatives had resolved that the effectivity of the land acquisition and distribution component of the CARP would be maintained until the end of 2008.

“The Joint Resolution No. 21 is practically a contract between House Speaker Prospero Nograles and the Filipino people,” said Ernesto Lim Jr., coordinator of AR Now!.

“We hope that House Speaker Prospero Nograles will not breach his contract with the people, we hope we can rely on his word that he will extend and reform CARP.”

AR Now! is a member-organization of Reform CARP Movement (RCM), an alliance of small farmers, non-government organizations, party-list groups and individual agrarian reform advocates.

“Without money to continue important agrarian reform activities like land acquisition and support services to agrarian reform beneficiaries, CARP will die, along with any likelihood of alleviating poverty in the countryside,” Lim said.

Lawyer Christian Monsod, who represents the coalition of farmers and peasant groups, said the passage of House Bill 4077 is facing a roadblock in Congress.

At the House of Representatives, Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte Jr. introduced “perfecting amendments” to the bill that farmers branded as “killer amendments,” he added.

Monsod said at the Senate, the problem was on Sen. Gregorio Honasan’s proposal for a “sequential coverage” of the agricultural lands, prioritizing government or public lands before the 1.3 million hectares remaining private agricultural lands nationwide.

“(But) agrarian reform is a constitutional mandate, it never actually expires that’s why what Congress should do is to make sure that it is given funding or appropriation,” he said.

Monsod said President Arroyo should now exercise her political leadership to speed up the approval of House Bill 4077 and its eventual enactment into law by Congress.

“The political leadership of President Gloria Arroyo is needed now, if she is really sincere to what she has promised in 2001 that she will prioritize agrarian reform, including distribution of lands to farmers, in the country,” he said.

“She should exercise her political leadership especially within her party since the immediate passage of the bill already approved by committee is being opposed by administration congressmen.

“She should do something to comply with her commitment for a proper conclusion to this.”

In Quezon City, eight farmers claiming rights over a 157-hectare property owned by the family of First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo in Negros Occidental went on hunger strike in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform yesterday.

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