NegOcc pioneers stronger drive against ‘ariendo’ in PH

Erwin P. Nicavera

LA CASTELLANA – The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has started its intensified campaign against “ariendo” system in Negros Occidental, the province with the largest land area covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (Carp).

Agrarian Reform Secretary Rosalina Bistoyong, who led the “Kampanya Kontra Ariendo” at the covered court of this southern Negros municipality, said the leasing of land has been quite rampant especially in sugarcane areas in the country, including Negros Occidental.

Bistoyong said in terms of funding, the agency’s focus has already shifted from land acquisition and distribution to provision of more support services in the bid to make the awarded land become productive.

“We are trying to counter the ‘ariendo’ system, I was telling the farmers that there is no reason for them to lease the land because the services are already available,” she added.

In the southern part of the province, DAR-Negros Occidental II records showed that of about 114,000 hectares it covers, about 20,000 hectares awarded to some 8,000 ARBs are reportedly under “verbal” lease transactions.

These cases have no documentary evidences and will only be reported if the problem already needs the intervention of the DAR.

The agency cited that overdependent on former land owners and lack of knowledge on how to manage are the major reasons why some agrarian reform beneficiaries organizations (Arbos) resort to “ariendo” system.

Speaking before hundreds of agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) from different cities and municipalities in the Fifth District, Bistoyong asked them to promise that they will not lease or sell their land.

“Sa susunod na balik ko, sisingilin ko kayo. Titingnan ko kung tumupad kayo (When I come back, I will ask you again. I have to know if you complied),” she quipped.

The top DAR official also underscored that the implementation of Carp is “not an easy” work for the agency. Aside from going through tedious process, the DAR personnel sometimes also risk their lives especially when there are conflicts among landowners and farmer-beneficiaries.

Amid these difficulties, Bistoyong lamented that some beneficiaries have already transacted to lease their land even prior to installation.

“We are starting the campaign in Negros which we will also replicate in other provinces,” she said, stressing that “ariendo” along with selling and illegal transfer of land is tantamount to perpetual disqualification from the program.

For her part, La Castellana Mayor Rhumyla Mangilimutan said the local government continues to support Arbos and other associations and cooperatives in their locality by providing at least P30,000 worth of capitalization.

The Municipal Government, she said, has available fund of P1.5 million, which is still up for distribution to these organizations this year.

“Land conflicts especially in La Castellana have significantly died down, the Carp implementation landscape has changed positively,” the mayor said, telling the farmers that there is a need to have value-formation and mindset change.

Sustainability

The DAR has recognized the need to have “in between” programs that will help farmers become more sustainable.

Thus, the agency is now sitting down with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) regarding the use of P7 billion from the latter’s Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP).

Bistoyong said the fund will be used to assist the ARBs while waiting for the harvest, including the development of some enterprises especially during lean months.

She added that they are pushing for food production-related enterprises utilizing crops and other produce intercropped by the farmer-beneficiaries through diversification.

“We want the Arbos to become models in sustainable rural development by having sustainable livelihood. We want them to be rich also and become the new breed of land owners,” Bistoyong said.

DAR-Region 6 Director Stephen Leonidas, who was also present at the activity, said that some Arbos are tempted to sublease their land to have capital.

“We are developing a new concept that prior to installation, there will be activities like organizing and provision of livelihood projects for farmers to earn so that they will not be tempted to lease,” he added.