Over 4,000 Mindanao farmers receive land titles
John Unson (Philstar.com) - April 16, 2016 - 1:03am

COTABATO CITY, Philippines - The government subdivided 12,212.9 hectares of arable lands to 4,469 agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao from 2012 to 2015.

Based on records, the feat is more than 50 percent leap from what past ARMM administrations had accomplished in terms of disposing off lands to qualified farmer-beneficiaries.

As an incentive, Malacañang will complement ARMM’s agrarian reform initiatives with an P8 million yearly subsidy starting this year to maximize efforts of providing peasants with lands with they can own and till.

Records obtained from the office of Amihilda Sangcopan, secretary of ARMM’s Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), indicated that the massive distribution of lands to farmers started in 2012, while Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman was still an appointed officer-in-charge of the region.

Hataman was elected as ARMM’s eighth duly-mandated regional governor on May 13, 2013.

The DAR-ARMM distributed a total of 2,267. 7 hectares of lands in 2012, at least 6,543.2 hectares more in 2013 and additional 1,622.1 and 1,779.6 hectares more in 2014 and in 2015, respectively.

Lanao del Sur has the most number of ARBs --- a total of 1,830 all --- that benefited from the program from between 2012 to 2015.

The Sangcopan-led DAR-ARMM had also distributed lands to 925 ARBs in Sulu during the period.

At least 1,702 ARBs had also been awarded with titles for lands in Maguindanao, agency records showed.

The DAR-ARMM also gave out lands with corresponding titles to dozens more of ARB’s in Tawi-Tawi and in Basilan, respectively, in the past four years.

Sangcopan said nowhere in the now 25-year-history of ARMM has an administration distributed vast swaths of lands to farmers in the region the way the present regional leadership did.

The DAR-ARMM secretary said their intensified land reform efforts are parallel with the socio-economic and normalization agenda of Malacañang’s Southern Mindanao peace process.

Sangcopan said among the root causes of the decades-old Moro problem are dispossession of Mindanao’s native Moro inhabitants of lands and ownership disputes with settlers from outside.

“One way of empowering the local peasant communities is to help them own duly titled lands,” Sangcopan said.

She said they are thankful to the national government for its commitment to provide DAR-ARMM with an annual P8 million fiscal support starting this year.

The ARMM only had a P500,000 yearly grant from the national government for domestic agrarian reform projects in previous years.

Sangcopan said it was only during the time of Hataman when DAR-ARMM started dispersing farm equipment to agrarian reform organizations in different parts of the region, procured with funds from local and foreign benefactors.

“We are doing these in utmost transparency, in a manner open to scrutiny by the media and civil society organizations because we want to sustain the high level of confidence and trust on the present ARMM administration of national and foreign program cooperators,” Sangcopan said.

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