“It is in agriculture where we stand some kind of a chance of getting an economic breakthrough.”
by Ducky Paredes
While the legislature ought to be taking a long, hard look at the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program that was supposed to be a one-time project with the end coming when all of the lands to be redistributed have been given to the actual farmers, it has already been extended four times.
Apparently, the CARP has not been working well; otherwise, the DAR would have done its job of finishing the program in the original ten years that was the time given the program by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) or Republic Act 6657.
According to the Department of Agrarian Reform, it had, in the first 15 years that we have had the CARP, distributed 5.8 million hectares to 2.7 million agrarian reform (AR) beneficiaries, or an accomplishment rate of 72 percent. (At end-2003 both DAR and DENR clainm that they have redistributed 5.8 million hectares, or 72 percent of its 8.1 million hectare target or 58 percent of the Philippines’ total farmland, benefiting 2.7 million rural poor households or 44 percent of the country’s total peasant population.)
Has it, really? Actually, 72 percent of the distributed land, or 5.8 million hectares, consisted of public lands.)
Land reform has been hardly felt in the countryside. One suspects even that agricultural production has decreased since the focus has been on beneficiaries receiving certificates of land ownership rather than on agricultural production. This is easily converted to cash when they are mortgaged to traders and other rich folk in the towns.
At any rate, our legislators should be looking at the program as a whole and deciding on what is best not for the “beneficiaries” or the former land owners but for the country. We need agricultural production! In fact, it is in agriculture where we stand some kind of a chance of getting an economic breakthrough. We have a lot of unemployed and underemployed. If the farms can be made productive, we would have a lot of jobs for many of these unemployed and under-employed. Yet, we purchase tons of imported rice. Our funds goes to farmers in Thailand and other rice exporters when we have the rice lands that could produce our rice and, apparently, from the funds we send to the farmers of other countries, the wherewithal to support agricultural production.
When farmers and almost 30 bishops go on a hunger strike which they proclaim will end only when the legislators have done what the strikers want them to do – pass an extension, without too much thought – they only complicate matters. We will again be getting another law that was passed without much thought.
That is how one gets bad law. This is why I am against the hunger strikers. Give our legislators a chance to look more deeply into the CARP. It is obviously not working for anyone. As for the hunger strikers, if they mean what they are saying – that they will be on a hunger strike until they get what they want – it is obviously their own choice and whatever happens to them they cannot blame this on the congressmen and senators.
My advice to our legislators: Take your time on this; you need to think this through – not be rushed to a decision that will not serve anyone well, most especially not the country.
The latest news is that Congress will go for a six-month extension; the Senate will agree but prohibit the DAR from new purchases of landowner lands.
Land Reform should result in increased agricultural production, not less. A law that is based on preventing farmers and bishops from dying from their self-imposed, willful hunger cannot possibly be a good law because it would have been passed under duress – without thinking!
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The number of unemployed Filipinos increased to 2.525 million, (6.8 %), according to the October Labor Force Survey (LFS) released by the National Statistics Office (NSO).
This was higher than the 6.3 percent, or 2.246 million, unemployed registered in the same month last year.
The increase in the ranks of the unemployed came from increased unemployment rates in the National Capital Region, at 12.8 percent, and Calabarzon, 10 percent. Other regions that registered high unemployment rates were Central Luzon, 8.1 percent, Ilocos, 7.9 percent, and Western Visayas, 6.2 percent.
The number of unemployed was higher among males at around 63.2 percent of the total number of unemployed than among females (36.8 percent). And, all of these are still at the beginning of the world-wide financial crisis.
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The Renewable Energy Act of 2008 that targets a Philippines that is 60 percent energy self-sufficient by 2010 is billed by the President as the “first and most comprehensive renewable energy law in Southeast Asia.”
Among its features is that distributors – such as Meralco – are encouraged to purchase electricity coming from renewable energy sources. Renewable energy refers to solar, biomass, geothermal, hydropower, wind and ocean energy technologies.
There are already actual providers of solar and wind power to other distributors in other parts of the country. One wonders if some Lopez subsidiary will put up a solar or wind farm and hammer out a contract from Meralco under which Meralco would have to take or pay whatever these farms can produce whether or not they do produce the wattage that we will be paying for?
That might sound like a silly though at this time but, didn’t we find gas at Malampaya (which was supposed to bring down our costs of power generation) and isn’t this the same gas that provides two Lopez companies with the power it sells to Meralco at a higher price than Napocor provides Meralco. If the Lopezes could do that with the gas from Malampaya, what makes you think they would not do the same thing with the power they can get from the wind and the sun?
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hvp 12.17.08)Readers who missed a column can access www.duckyparedes.com/blogs. This is updated daily. Your reactions are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org