News & Updates1,104 farmers get land ownership titles

1,104 farmers get land ownership titles

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Teodulo Hiyog, a 103-year-old farmer from Dauin, receives his certificate of land title after 88 years, during a ceremonial signing of the New Agrarian Emancipation Act. (Photo by Regina Faye Lleno)

Rejinald Cabusog, a 72-year-old farmer from Mabinay, and one of the agrarian reform beneficiaries, said that his family’s waiting years are now over. As he was receiving his Certificate of Land Ownership Award Friday during the national CLOA mass distribution activity, he said they will no longer think about paying the bank every year.

“Since birth jud, farming na ang panginabuhian sa akoang pamilya kay gipa mana naman ni sa amoang ginikanan. Maong karon dako akong kalipay kay wala nakoy obligasyon ug wala nay tulubagon pa’s gobyerno,” he said.

(Farming has been my family’s livelihood since birth as this activity was already handed down to us by my parents. That is why today [with this CLOA] I am very happy because I have no more financial obligations, and I have no more accountability to the government.)

Cabusog will now be owner of a one-hectare mango patch, a one-hectare rice field, and a one- hectare sugarcane field, which he had been tilling the past five decades.

Another agrarian reform beneficiary, Rosela Alvarez, a 59-year-old farmer from Bayawan City, also shared her hardship as a big portion of her earnings, she said, would normally be allocated for payment for the rental of the land.

“Lisod, perteng kalisod, kay kaisa ra ka mag tanom sa isa ka tuig ug gamay ra pud among makuha nga income ani kay dili pa man amoa ang yuta. Importante kaayo ni para sa amoa kay mang-uuma baya, kinahanglan ang yuta na tikaron kay mao ra among panginabuhian,” she said.

(Life has been difficult, very difficult since we can only plant once in a year then we can only earn little income from it because the land was not ours [and we had yet to pay rent]. This [distribution of CLOA] is very important for us because we are farmers, we need land to plow as it’s the only livelihood we know.)

Alvarez said she is hopeful about the coming years. “Sa una, ga duha-duha pa kami nga magtanom kay dili man mi sure nga ma-amoa pero karon nga amoa na, palambuon namo ni ug maayo.”

(We used to have second thoughts about planting because we were never sure if the land would become ours. But now that it has already been declared ours, we will develop this well.)

About 1,104 farmers from different municipalities in Negros Oriental, Cebu, and Bohol gathered in a hall in barangay Balugo in Valencia to receive their respective certificates of land titles.

The New Agrarian Emancipation Act of 2023, signed by President Marcos Jr., “condones the unpaid amortization, interest, surcharges, and penalties of current loans of farmers cultivating more than one million hectares of land.”

The number of agrarian reform beneficiaries are as follows: Sta. Catalina with 209; Tanjay City with 206; Mabinay with 154; Bais City with 150; Bayawan with 89; Manjuyod with 50; Amlan with 43; Valencia with 40; Zamboanguita with 31; Siaton with 31; Canlaon with three; Dauin with one; Cebu with 70; and Bohol with 20, with a total of 1,700 hectares distributed to each beneficiary.

According to Agrarian Reform Region VII Director Leomides Villareal, the government has come up with a program to equally share the land of titles to the farmers, which is called the Support to Parcelization of Lands for Individual Titling (SPLIT).

“The government loaned at least P24 billion to the World Bank for this project, and that is the birth of CLOA. So the CLOA will be subdivided to the member-beneficiary within the particular landholding,” he said.

With this, Villareal said the government will “not anymore force the farmers to pay for the compensable land that they have.”

“After 15 days from the signing, the law can be mandated, and the farmers who have loans from LandBank and the Development Bank of the Philippines are not obligated to pay for it,” he said.

Now, the beneficiaries will own a maximum of three hectares, but will still have to pay for the realty tax as prescribed in the new law, Villareal said.

He added that this is the government’s way of “giving land to the landless.”

“The government will not receive any percentage from the farmer’s income, so it’s a hundred percent theirs already. We will still help them, as we have an aftercare intervention for them but in totality, they now own the land, so they can do whatever they want to do with it,” he said.

Villareal said a memorandum of understanding has been signed with the Bureau of Jail Management & Penology as part of their initiative to help the farmers market their produce and make them the direct supplier to the agency.

He stressed that although the farmers now have ownership of the land, a disqualification case can still be levied against them when they are identified by the Provincial Agrarian Reform Office as having abandoned the land given to them by the government, and for selling the land to a third party.

“I would just like to appeal to our farmers nga ayuha ninyo ng yuta nga gihatag ninyo because this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. When you are defaulted, or pananglitan makasala mo sa gisalig sa inyoha sa gobyerno, you will never have a second chance to be a beneficiary,” he said.

(I appeal to our farmers to take care of the land given to you by the government. If you make a mistake with the land entrusted to you by the government, you will never have a second chance as a beneficiary.)

Provincial Agrarian Reform Program Officer Elvira Bation said that so far, 92 percent of the lands have been distributed to the farmers.

“In Negros Oriental, mostly all municipalities have it [agrarian reform lands], except Dumaguete. Sibulan, San Jose, Amlan, Dauin have very few [lands for agrarian reform].

The bulk is in Canlaon, Guihulngan, Vallehermoso, Bais, Mabinay, Bayawan, Sta. Catalina, and Tanjay. We also have in Valencia and Siaton which are government-owned lands,” she said.

Despite the government’s efforts to give farmers their land ownership, Bation stressed there could still be challenges to it, as some hacienderos continue to resist the national plan.

“We cannot avoid it that the haciendero’s concept may be that they had worked so hard for their land, and then now, it’s ‘unjust’ on their part that the government takes away the land from them [and gives it to the farmers]. But we have tried our best to explain the agrarian reform program to them, and some have actually cooperated with government,” Bation said. (Aiah Jane Cagadas & Justynne Keigh Dano/SU Masscom interns)

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