DAR exec bids goodbye
by Manny Agapay
Davao City (17 June) -- Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman bade goodbye Thursday to various peasant-based non-government organizations that held a mass in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to celebrate the 22nd anniversary of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
Pangandaman said he would stay in office up to June 30 to oversee the smooth transition to the new leadership. He advised his would-be successor to pursue the program even beyond 2014 until the last hectare of farmland is distributed.
Pangandaman said he is pleased with the accomplishment of his administration in his five-year stint as secretary, during which he raised the agency's annual land distribution target to 130,000-hectare from 100,000-hectare.
"Our record speaks for itself," Pangandaman said shortly after the Mass that was also held to mark belatedly the first anniversary of the slaying of Sumilao farmer-leader, Rene Peņas, who was gunned down on June 5, 2009 in Sumilao, Bukidnon.
DAR made a big leap in 2008 when the agency distributed 146,274 hectares of farmlands to landless farmers, the highest since the department gave away 210,126 hectares in 1997.
At least a million hectares more of farmlands are up for distribution, and Congress is giving the DAR to do the Herculean task up to 2014, or as Sen. Gregorio Honasan, during the deliberation of the CARP extension law, put it: "Finished or unfinished pass your paper."
Pangandaman said he wishes his would-be successor all the best even as he urged him/her to pursue the same position his administration has stood by that land reform is a continuing program, it being enshrined in the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
"It's been our position that land reform should continue even beyond 2014 until the last hectare of agricultural land is distributed," Pangandaman said before more than a hundred farmers and key personalities who figured prominently in the campaign for the passage of the Republic Act 9700, better known as the CARP extension with reform (CARPer) Law.
Among those present were Rep. Riza Hontiveros-Baraquel, Akbayan Partylist Rep. Kaka Bag-ao, Bishop Antonio Ledesma and former Commission on Elections chairman Christian Monsod.
President Arroyo signed the CARPer Law on August 7 last year in Plaridel, Bulacan, extending the program's land acquisition and distribution for five more years or up to 2014, and providing the same P150 billion budget. (DAR XI) [top]