Land Rights Philippines

Working towards secured property rights in the Philippines

NDF demands free land for farmers; alarm raised

May 20, 2017

MANILA, Philippines – The Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF) has expressed alarm over the Duterte administration’s alleged  inclination to give in to the National Democratic Front (NDF)’s demand of free land for farmers as part of the peace talks, saying this is not a solution to poverty.

The government peace panel and the NDF will meet for their fifth round of talks from May 27 to June 1 after formal negotiations resumed in August last year.

Providing free farmland has been among the demands of the NDF since the start of the peace talks.

The FEF – a group whose members include former Cabinet secretaries and undersecretaries and representatives from the business and finance community – said giving out free land would not solve the fundamental problems of Philippine agriculture, which primarily are restrictions in the rural land market.

The FEF said handing out land for free would only be a populist measure similar to free irrigation and free rice.

“Giving out free land will not affect the situation on the ground because only 17 percent of agrarian reform beneficiaries are paying their loan amortizations. Therefore, farmers are effectively given their lands for free. Yet agricultural productivity has remained stagnant and our farmers have remained poor,” the FEF said in a statement yesterday.

The group also claims that the restrictions on rural land imposed by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law are what kept farmers poor and similarly prevents them from raising their agricultural productivity.

“These restrictions include the prohibition to sell or mortgage the property within ten years from grant, prohibition to lease and the prohibition to own more than five hectares of land. These restrictions prevent agrarian reform beneficiaries from accessing cheap loans from the formal financial markets and also prevent efficient farmers from working on larger tracts of land and buying out inefficient ones,” the FEF said.

“What Philippine agriculture needs is to provide the conditions for efficient farmers to introduce management, technology and capital to farmlands by removing the restrictions on the rural land market,” it added.

The FEF is proposing that agrarian reform beneficiaries be given unrestricted titles to their lands instead of the collective Certificate of Land Ownership Awards, which it said “rob farmers of economic freedom and private initiative.”

By Richmond Mercurio

The Philippine Star