P4-B ARC fund to benefit landlords

BIG landlords will be the likely beneficiaries of the P4-billion fund allotted by President Benigno Aquino III and Akbayan party-list group for the Tulay ng Pangulo Para sa Kaunlarang Pang-Agraryo (TPKP) and “showcase” agrarian reform communities (ARCs), a militant lawmaker said.

“The ‘holy alliance’ between the landlord president and Akbayan has ensured that big landlords will get a big slice of the cake under the guise of TPKP and the ARC’s,” said Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano.

Mariano added: “The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the proponents of the P4.05-billion budget for infrastructure projects supposedly intended for agrarian reform communities (ARCs) are fanning uncertainties with the nature and objective of the questionable allocation.”

He said farmers under ARCs do not own the lands since most of them have pending land disputes and have not benefited at all from the government program.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad defended the fund, saying it was introduced as a special provision by Akbayan to ensure that it will be used to aid and develop ARCs.

“The P4.05-billion fund will only strengthen the grasp and control of local landlords to haciendas and wholly deny farmers the right to own the lands they till,” Mariano insisted.

He said the government, big landlords and agribusiness owners “advocate ARCs for contract growing, joint venture or lease arrangements for the production of crops for export to evade land transfer and genuine land reform.”

Mariano said the first to benefit from the fund allocation are local landlords, including the President’s uncle, Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, who owns a 5,000-hectare plantation in Negros Occidental and hundreds of hectares more in Palawan, Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog and Isabela.

The lawmaker said Cojuangco’s properties are under non-land transfer schemes, such as joint ventures and corporate farming.

He  said the government should instead restore the budget of the National Food Authority (NFA) to increase
its capacity to procure palay from local farmers and producers.  D’Jay Lazaro

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