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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, April 13, 2007
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Aquino, Roxas say
CARP needs review
BY CARLA GOMEZ

Senator Mar Roxas yesterday stressed the need to improve on the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, saying it has not been as successful as it was hoped to be since it has not alleviated poverty. Liberal Party senatorial candidate Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III said CARP needs to be reviewed because the government has spent P119 billion so far on a program that has ineffectively addressed the plight of farm workers.

Roxas, who accompanied Aquino on his campaign sortie to Negros, said the CARP expires next year and by law there is a need to review it, and, "as in life, what may have been appropriate 20 years ago may not be appropriate anymore today."

"So, if CARP is to be continued, it must be in a different form with more resources," Roxas said.

"If it is not continued then we must put a different tool in place to alleviate poverty in the countryside," he also said.

CARP, as it has been implemented so far, clearly has not led to greater income and opportunities for those who are supposed to have been its beneficiaries, Roxas said.

The history of CARP is that land has been transferred to beneficiaries but in the end because there are no support mechanisms the farmer beneficiaries hawk or use their land titles for loans and get foreclosed, he said.

CARP was designed as a wealth redistributive program, and land was the focus because it was thought at the time that wealth came from land, he said.

But land in and of it self does not produce wealth, it requires inputs, support, farm to market roads , fair trading, he also said.

"Simply distributing land is not going to attain the objective we want, we want a society were the wealth is fairly and equitably distribute where there is opportunity for all," he said.

He added that the issue is not so much whether CARP is extended or not, but how to build a society where wealth is equitably distributed.

"The objective of CARP is to free our farmers, our rural folk from the poverty they are locked into," he said, but if no change is made to the manner in which it is implemented in 10 years we will be faced with the same failure, he said.

"CARP is not an end in itself, it is simply a tool to alleviate poverty in the countryside, Roxas said.

"I do not agree that we should continue spending P119 billion on something that is flawed," Aquino said of CARP.

He said Department of Agrarian Reform records will show that landholdings of his mother, Corazon Aquino, were the biggest offered under the Voluntary Offer to Sell in Tarlac and his father, Benigno Aquino distributed land even before land reform.

He also said its was the workers of his family's Hacienda Luisita who voted for a Stock Distribution Option because it allowed them to continue get their salaries and benefits, and shares as stockholders.

In fact his family lost P2 billion in working capital trying to make a go of the venture and the bulk of those who were involved in altercations that occurred at Luisita were not its workers and not even from Tarlac as shown in police records, he said.*CPG

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