SILAY CITY — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo met briefly with Negros officials and sugar planters at the Bacolod City airport on Friday and asked them to help draft a revised agrarian reform program that would promote higher productivity, provide greater access to credit and address existing conflicts effectively, Presidential Adviser for Western Visayas Rafael Coscolluela said Sunday.
Coscolluela said the President asked the congressmen present to submit an appropriate bill for study by all agrarian reform stakeholders.
Coscolluela said Ms Arroyo pointed out that her father, the late President Diosdado Macapagal, was the author of land reform and she was not about to kill it.
The President had gone to Bacolod to listen to the officials’ and planters’ complaints against the Department of Agrarian Reform and the way it had handled land reform disputes, some of which led to bloody confrontations.
Her brother-in-law, Rep. Ignacio Arroyo of Negros Occidental’s fifth district, however, said that while the extension of the land reform program remained a priority of the President, whether or not it pushed through depended on the congressmen.
The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) will expire next year. Moves to extend CARP to 2010 will be reviewed in the predominantly administration-allied House of Representatives.
Gov. Joseph Marañon and the Association of Chief Executives of Negros Occidental have been calling for an audit and evaluation of CARP, to determine whether it has been successful or not.
Coscolluela said that he was also directed by the President to draft the terms of engagement between Department of Agrarian Reform and local government officials in the implementation of land reform.
This was the President’s response to the complaints aired by the local officials about the failure of DAR to coordinate with the local government unit when it recently installed land reform beneficiaries in a contested property.
The recent installation at Hacienda Velez-Malaga led to violent confrontations.
Last week, Marañon submitted to the Office of the President a copy of the proposed MOA written in 2003 that he said would ensure an orderly and peaceful implementation of agrarian reform in Negros Occidental.
On Friday, the governor asked the Office of the President to investigate top DAR officials amid the complaints of the department’s Negros Occidental employees about the way land reform was being implemented in some areas.