MANILA, Philippines –The Senate passed on third and final reading an amendment to the agrarian reform law allowing the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to continue the acquisition and distribution of agricultural lands to farmer-beneficiaries until 2016.
Senate Bill No 2278, authored and sponsored by Senate agrarian reform committee chairperson Gregorio Honasan II, was passed on September 17.
Section 2 of the bill seeks to amend Section 30 of Republic Act 9700 that would allow DAR to continue issuing Notices of Coverage (NOC) until June 30, 2016, thus giving them two more years to cover further hectares of land under the government’s agrarian reform program.
As mandated by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPer), the government can start distributing land to farmers once it is out under NOC.
A DAR data showed that around 4,655,100 hectares had been granted to farmer beneficiaries out of a total 5,466,602 hectares to be distributed while about 726,421 hectares remain undistributed and around 29,935 hectares still have to be issued NOCs.
Most of these lands are small coconut and sugar lands in Region 6, Region 8, and The Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The proposed bill also constituted to accept voluntary offers to sell by landowners of agricultural lands.
“We are very grateful to the Senate for its unanimous vote in favor of the NOC bill. We are looking forward to its eventual passage into law in due course,” DAR Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Anthony Parungao said in an interview.
“It’s good news but time is running out. We need the House version and then the joint initiative. We only have 20 months of PNoy administration,” Kilusan Para sa Repormang Agraryo at Katarungang Panlipunan (Katarungan) Secretary General Danny Carranza said.
“This bill is actually certified as urgent in June 2014 by Malacañang and was mentioned at the 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Benigno Aquino,” Senator Gregorio Honasan II said.
The House of Representatives now has to pass House Bill No 4296, their own version of the bill. However, the House bill has not yet been scheduled for second hearing.
The first version of CARPer – Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) – was first implemented in 1988 and was extended for another five years in June 2009 through RA 9700 due to its failure to meet the deadline.
With report from Cyra Moraleda