Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page

Impact of access to land on food security and poverty: the case of Philippine agrarian reform[11] - E.A. Guardian

Programme Director, GCP/PHI/047/AUL and GCP/PHI/043/ITA

Agrarian reform in the Philippines seeks to solve the centuries-old problem of landlessness in rural areas. Through the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) initiated in 1987, the government addressed key national goals: the promotion of equity and social justice, food security and poverty alleviation in the countryside. After over 14 years of the CARP, however, the programme is yet to be completed and is currently burdened with major issues - from opposition by landlords and lack of support from legislators, to wide gaps in fund resources.

Various studies, however, have shown that agrarian reform has had a significant impact on farmer beneficiaries. Increased per capita incomes, reduced poverty incidence, higher investments in physical capital, and greater household welfare and productivity were reported, aside from social justice and peace attained in the countryside. Land redistribution alone was not enough to liberate the small farmer from poverty and ensure the success of the CARP. Support services for the agrarian reform communities became pivotal in enhancing food security and building infrastructures that promote food production, enhance community trading and increase rural household income.

Despite the many serious setbacks to the CARP's full implementation, and given the positive results of the various impact studies, this article shares the view of many observers that the CARP's overall performance is positive and encouraging. It has clearly benefited a significant portion of the rural population through its various programmes intended to alleviate poverty, ensure food security, and empower people towards the overall development of the country.

Accès à la terre, sécurité alimentaire et pauvreté: le cas de la réforme agraire aux Philippines

Aux Philippines, la réforme agraire cherche à résoudre le problème séculaire de la privation de terres dans les zones rurales. Avec le Programme global de réforme agraire (CARP) lancé en 1987, le Gouvernement cherche à atteindre certains objectifs prioritaires, comme la promotion de l'équité et de la justice sociale, la sécurité alimentaire et la lutte contre la pauvreté dans les zones rurales. Quatorze ans plus tard, toutefois, le programme n'est toujours pas achevé et se trouve confronté à de graves difficultés, allant de l'opposition des gros propriétaires terriens et de l'absence de soutien de la part des législateurs à d'énormes lacunes dans les ressources financières disponibles. La réforme agraire a eu un impact sensible sur les agriculteurs qui en ont été les bénéficiaires: hausse des revenus par habitant, diminution de l'incidence de la pauvreté, hausse des investissements dans le capital physique et amélioration du bien-être et de la productivité des ménages; la justice et la paix sociales règnent désormais dans les campagnes. La redistribution des terres n'a pas suffi à libérer les petits agriculteurs de la pauvreté et à assurer le succès de la réforme agraire. Les services d'appui aux communautés bénéficiaires de la réforme agraire ont permis d'améliorer la sécurité alimentaire et de mettre en place les infrastructures nécessaires pour faciliter la production vivrière, renforcer le commerce local et améliorer les revenus des ménages ruraux. Cet article partage l'opinion de nombreux observateurs qui considèrent que ce programme a obtenu des résultats positifs et encourageants. Il a été bénéfique à une large partie de la population rurale et constitue un programme efficace pour remédier à la pauvreté et assurer la sécurité alimentaire et le développement général du pays.

Acceso a la tierra, seguridad alimentaria y pobreza: el caso de la reforma agraria filipina

La reforma agraria en Filipinas procura resolver el problema de los campesinos sin tierra en las zonas rurales, que viene arrastrándose desde hace siglos. Mediante el Programa global de reforma agraria, iniciado en 1987, el Gobierno aborda objetivos nacionales primordiales: la promoción de la igualdad y la justicia social, la seguridad alimentaria y la mitigación de la pobreza en el campo. Sin embargo, tras más de 14 años de ejecución, el Programa todavía no se ha completado, y en la actualidad tiene que cargar con problemas importantes: desde la oposición de los grandes terratenientes y la falta de apoyo de los legisladores, hasta grandes vacíos de recursos financieros. La reforma agraria ha producido mayores ingresos per cápita, ha reducido la incidencia de la pobreza, incrementado las inversiones en capital físico y la productividad y bienestar de las familias y la justicia social. La redistribución de la tierra no fue suficiente para liberar a los pequeños agricultores de la pobreza y asegurar el éxito del Programa. Los servicios de apoyo a las comunidades fueron de vital importancia para aumentar la seguridad alimentaria y crear una infraestructura que promoviera la producción de alimentos, aumentara el comercio entre comunidades e incrementara los ingresos de los hogares.

En este artículo se apoya la opinión de numerosos observadores de que el rendimiento general del Programa es positivo y alentador: ha beneficiado claramente a una parte considerable de la población rural y puede constituir un instrumento eficaz para mitigar la pobreza, garantizar la seguridad alimentaria y fomentar el desarrollo general del país.


Agrarian reform in the Philippines is a difficult task. In spite of its strategic importance, it is viewed with great scepticism. It is expected to resolve, in a matter of 20 years, the centuriesold problem of landlessness that has spawned social unrest and uprisings. It is also expected to address two important national goals: food security and poverty alleviation. However, it has received far less public support than expected, and it swims against a sea of odds - opposition from landlords, criticism by civil society, suspicion by the private sector, cynicism by legislators, a lack of financial and material resources, and general public apathy.

Every administration has declared agrarian reform a centrepiece programme for growth and development, yet it has received only scanty resources from government. The fund for land acquisition and distribution (LAD) has always been inadequate, yet LAD is a major component by which the success of agrarian reform is measured. Most of the funding for the support services component of the programme comes from Overseas Development Assistance (ODA).

Much of the sceptiscm about agrarian reform probably has deep roots in history. During the Spanish colonial period, the bulk of prime lands went to the friars through means both fair and foul. The tyranny of the friars was one of the factors that sparked the Philippine Revolution of 1896. When the United States occupied the Philippines at the turn of the twentieth century, they purchased most of the friar estates for distribution to tenants. However, because of high prices, most of these estates went to American firms, businesspersons and property owners.

When peasant uprisings broke out in the 1930s, during the period of the Commonwealth, President Quezon introduced a massive resettlement programme. This programme was pursued by President Magsaysay after the Pacific War to break the backbone of the Huk Rebellion. The government opened up vast uncultivated and unpopulated areas for homesteading, especially on Mindanao Island. This created another problem: it marginalized the indigenous population, as some of the resettlement areas intruded into ancestral domains. This is one of the roots of the current conflict in Mindanao.

There have been attempts since the Commonwealth to reform tenancy relations by arranging a more equitable sharing of crops between landowners and tenants. However, they have not really addressed the problem of landlessness. In 1963, President Macapagal enacted the Land Reform Code. This officially abolished share tenancy and instituted a leasehold system whereby tenants would eventually own the land through amortization. However, the programme did not gain momentum.

President Marcos was the first to implement a major redistributive type of land reform. Soon after imposing martial law in 1972, he issued Presidential Decree No. 27, declaring the whole country a land reform area. His programme covered rice and maize lands. Thus, only direct tillers were entitled to land transfer. Marcos' land reform failed because of a number of flaws, including: the "severely limited" coverage; the high retention limit of 7 ha, which applied even to absentee property owners; the burdensome process of obtaining land; and the lack of support services (Reyes, 2001).

After the fall of Marcos, the succeeding government of President Aquino enacted Republic Act No. 6657, or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL). The enactment of the CARL was in itself controversial. It came in the wake of a protest rally of some 10 000 militant farmers in January 1987 that ended in a massacre. The farmers had been demanding immediate land distribution, through confiscation and expropriation if necessary. Government troops fired on them, killing 17 and wounding about 100 others. This prompted the immediate filing in Congress of the agrarian reform bill. The bill was debated intensely inside and outside the halls of Congress. There were almost daily mass demonstrations by civil society groups.

In the end, a compromise version of the CARL emerged. Much of the compromise was in favour of the landowners, especially on their rights to retention and just compensation. However, the landowners complained that the law was harsh and confiscatory, while the militant groups denounced it as pro-landowner and bogus. Nevertheless, the CARL was the best that could be had under those difficult times and circumstances. This is perhaps the reason why the agrarian reform programme has been viewed with scepticism until today.

The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program

The CARL set in motion the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) in June 1988 with an initial allocation of p50 000 million[12] for the Agrarian Reform Fund (ARF). The CARP covered all public and private agricultural lands regardless of the crops planted. It also included public domain lands that were suitable for agriculture. It sought to redistribute land not only to farmers and farm workers but also to other landless poor. Guided by the principle of social justice, it recognized the right of landowners to just compensation and provided a retention limit of 5 ha. It also recognized the rights of indigenous cultural communities to their ancestral land.

The CARP extended the amortization period from 20 years (as under President Marcos' Decree No. 27) to 30 years. On lands not covered by land distribution (those within the retention limit), the CARP sought to improve tenure arrangements through leasehold. The law mandated the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to lead the implementation of the CARP.

The CARP also provided a comprehensive package of support services. These included: land surveys and titling; credit; basic rural infrastructure (farm-to-market roads, communal irrigation systems, and post-harvest facilities); basic social services (potable water supply, education and health care); extension (including marketing and management assistance); and capability building (training and organizational development of farmers).

The CARP was given ten years to distribute a total target of some 8 million ha. However, by June 1998 it had distributed only 4.6 million ha (58 percent of target) to some 2.8 million agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs), leaving a backlog of some 3.4 million ha. President Ramos signed Republic Act No. 8532 on 11 February 1998, extending the CARP until 2008, with an additional allocation of p50 000[13] million for the ARF.

Table 1
CARP accomplishments, to December 2002





Public A & D lands

2 502 000

1 235 922


ISF areas

1 269 411

1 335 999



3 771 411

2 571 921




4 290 453

3 249 260



8 061 864

5 821 181


According to figures from the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council, the CARP had distributed more than 5.82 million ha to some 3 million ARBs by the end of 2002, or an accomplishment rate of almost 72 percent from the revised total scope of 8.1 million ha. Of this accomplishment, the DAR distributed 3.25 million ha of mostly agricultural lands, or 75.6 percent of its scope of 4.3 million ha, while the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) distributed 2.57 million ha of public lands and integrated social forestry areas, or 68.2 percent of its scope of 3.8 million ha (Table 1).

The Agrarian Reform Community

One innovative approach in the implementation of the CARP was the adoption of the so-called Agrarian Reform Community (ARC) strategy. An ARC is a cluster of rural communities or barangays (villages) where land transfer has been more or less completed and where there is a critical mass of ARBs, that is, 50 - 60 percent of the community residents are ARBs. Conceived in 1993, the ARC strategy arose from a need to optimize the use of the limited financial and material resources of the government. At that time, donor countries were hesitant to deal with the DAR because of the 1989 scandal involving the sale of the overvalued Garchitorena Estate (1 888 ha) in the Bicol Region.

Table 2
Official development assistance portfolio, end 2002


No. of projects
(p million)

Project cost1
(US$ million)

Completed projects


5 320


Ongoing projects


33 920

1 696

Proposal approved


1 120




40 360

2 018

1 Inclusive of loans, grants and the Government of the Philippines counterpart. The dollar costs indicated in the table were computed into peso equivalents based on the exchange rates current at the time these projects were approved. The projects were approved during the period from 1992 to 2002. Hence, peso equivalents in this table use various peso - dollar exchange rates.

Although the sale was aborted, donors remained hesitant to support the CARP, especially its LAD component.

The Aquino administration hoped to raise US$2 580 million for the CARP between 1988 and 1992, but as of 1990 it had only received US$95.8 million in foreign commitments, mainly from the United States of America (52 percent), the Netherlands (33 percent), Japan (7.05 percent) and Italy (6.04 percent).

The ARC strategy focused on support services in selected areas to raise the household income of at least 70 percent of ARBs in the ARC to above poverty level. This strategy fitted into the framework of foreign donors to support specific geographic areas or sectors rather than the whole CARP itself. Thus, it attracted foreign donor support. From 1993 to 1997, at the end of President Ramos' term, the DAR had mobilized some p22 500 million[14] in foreign development assistance. As of December 2002, the DAR had mobilized some p40 400 million[15] for 39 foreign-assisted projects for 779 agrarian reform communities (Table 2).

The poverty situation

Based on official government estimates, the incidence of poor families in the Philippines increased from 34 percent in 1991 to 40 percent in 2000. In order to compare poverty incidence in rural and urban areas, a noted poverty expert in the country analysed these national figures and produced the figures shown in Table 3. In 2000, the poverty incidence in rural areas was about 41 percent, compared with 13 percent in urban areas.

Table 3
Poverty situation, the Philippines

Poverty incidence





















Source: "Policy issues affecting the agrarian reform programme in the Philippines" a PowerPoint presentation by Arsenio D. Basilican at the FAO - TSARRD workshop, Davao City, Philippines, in October 2002.

Poverty in the Philippines is still a rural phenomenon. Three-quarters of the poor live in the rural areas, and the majority depend on agriculture and agriculturerelated industries for employment and income. Even urban poverty is partly an indirect effect of rural poverty.


In assessing the impact of the CARP, the focus is always on the ARC because it is the show-window of the programme. Most funds for support services have been invested in ARCs, of which 1 543 have been established nationwide.

The ARC remains the main strategy of the CARP in enhancing food security through higher agricultural production and in lifting rural families out of poverty through higher income. It is in the ARCs that the DAR has built, and continues to build, infrastructures that promote food production, enhance community trading, and increase rural household income.

The ARC strategy is a testimony to the fact that land redistribution alone is not enough to liberate the small farmer from poverty and to ensure the success of the CARP. Support services are essential to the CARP. Without them, the CARP would destabilize and lose momentum.

The following box illustrates how support services affect the goals of improving food security and alleviating poverty.

In a barangay in Talavera, Central Luzon, rural development had stagnated for many years simply because of the lack of a good road. Transport vehicles seldom entered the barangay, so the farmers had to carry the sacks of palay to the roadside where tricycles (i.e. motorbikes with sidecars) would take them to the buyer. They could only load about five sacks of palay in a tricycle, and they paid p501 per transport.

As they had no solar drying facility in the barangay, the quality of the palay was poor, and the farmers hurried to dispose of their palay before it deteriorated. They received p6/kg, sometimes p5/kg when the buyer thought the palay had too much moisture and would need further drying.

When the ARC was established in the area, the DAR Agrarian Reform Communities Project (ARCP), funded by the Asian Development Bank (AsDB), built a farm-to-market road, a solar drying facility, and a warehouse in the barangay. Vehicles soon began to travel the road. Palay buyers came and the farmers did not have to transport their sacks of palay. The savings on transport costs translated easily into income. As they could now dry their palay, they earned a higher price, averaging p10/kg. They could also store their palay in the warehouse to wait for a time when prices were good.

Later the road was paved, again through funding from the DAR-AsDB-ARCP. Farmers who lived a little distance from the solar dryer did not need to go there, they simply spread their palay on the paved roadside to dry. The solar drying facility also had other uses, such as a basketball court and place for social gatherings.

In another example, the town of San Mateo in northern Luzon had long been isolated by an impassable river. Just across the river is a community with great commercial potential. To reach that community, residents of San Mateo had to go a roundabout way of several kilometres. They not only spent more on transport, they could only carry a limited load. With very little income opportunity, many ARBs secretly mortgaged the land awarded to them.

In 1999, the DAR Agrarian Reform Communities Development Project (ARCDP), supported by the World Bank, agreed to build a bridge in the town on condition that the ARBs recovered their land from mortgage. Farmers' relatives who were working abroad sent money to pay the mortgage. When the condition was met, the bridge was built. The bridge transformed the life of the residents of San Mateo. It ended their isolation, enhanced their social interaction with other communities, and improved trading activities. With the market now nearer, they were encouraged to increase agricultural production.

1 The reference year in this story is 2002. However, only the nominal exchange rate for 2001 (p50.99 = US$1) is available on NEDA's (the country's national planning and development office) Web site.

The examples in the box are only two examples of support services provided by the DAR to ARCs. Across ARCs nationwide, the DAR has delivered hundreds of such projects. In addition to roads and bridges, the projects have included communal irrigation systems, water-impounding structures, post-harvest facilities, potable water systems, demonstration and model farms, modern farm technologies for sustainable agriculture, and manyothers.

The impact of the CARP after 12 years

Seven research studies were undertaken in the first round of the CARP impact assessment studies. These studies had funding support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), AsDB, FAO and the European Union (EU), with counterpart funds from the Philippine Government. Among the key findings were:

Several other studies cite improvements in the living conditions of rural households in ARCs as a result of the CARP.

In her study of 12 years of CARP implementation, Reyes (2001) says: "The results show that agrarian reform has had a positive impact on farmer-beneficiaries. It has led to increased real per capita incomes and reduced poverty incidence between 1990 and 2000. ARBs tend to have higher income and lower poverty incidence compared to non-ARBs. Real per capita income of ARBs increased by 12.2 percent between 1990 and 2000. Moreover, poverty incidence among ARBs declined from 47.6 percent in 1990 to 45.2 percent in 2000. [In contrast, poverty incidence among non-ARBs was 55.1 percent in 1990 and 56.4 percent in 2000.]"

Deininger et al. (2000), in a Swiss-funded study, observe that the CARP has resulted in "higher investments in physical capital, greater increase in inter-generational transmission of human capital, and greater household welfare and productivity".

The World Bank - Agrarian Reform Communities Development Project (WB - ARCDP) Impact Assessment Report (2000) shows an average increase in the income of beneficiaries of 74.4 percent, using 1994 as base year.

Riedinger and Kang (2000) also observe that the change in the tenure status of the farmer - from tenant to leaseholder, and from amortizing ARB to ownercultivator - has resulted in increases in the production of rice. The observation was based on panel data from a 1989 - 1990 nationwide survey of 8 935 respondents and on data from a follow-up 1996 survey with 1 469 respondents.

In September 2002, the Institute of Agrarian and Rurban Development Studies of the University of the Philippines Los Baños produced an evaluation of the Agrarian Reform Infrastructure Support Project Phase I (ARISP-I), a foreign-assisted project of the DAR funded by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC).

The evaluation, conducted in partnership with Dr Nozawa of the University of Asia in Japan, consisted of a survey of three ARCs covered by the ARISP-I and three ARCs not covered by the project. Findings of the evaluation showed that the ARISP-I generally resulted in increased crop yield which "produced favorable changes in the level of non-farm and farm income combined". The evaluation noted greater improvements in cropping intensity for rice, rice productivity, average farmgate price, and household income in ARCs covered by ARISP-I compared with non-ARISP ARCs.

For example, cropping intensity in ARISPcovered ARCs was higher at two to three rice croppings per year compared with only one in non-ARISP ARCs. In terms of rice productivity, the average harvest per hectare was about 4 tonnes in ARISPcovered ARCs compared with only a little more than 2 tonnes in non-ARISP ARCs. The improvements in productivity and income were attributed to the communal irrigation facilities that have been provided, which have resulted in sufficient water supply, and to the adoption of high-yielding varieties and increased fertilizer inputs.

Another main accomplishment of the CARP was the virtual elimination of share tenancy, which was reduced from 67 percent before 1972 to 3 percent in 1995. Conversely, owner-cultivation increased from 2 to 23 percent during the same period (Bravo and Pantoja, 1998).

Some points to ponder

The improvements mentioned were true only in representative ARCs, not in all ARCs. As of 2002, based on the ARC level of development assessment (ALDA) ratings developed by the DAR, a greater number of ARCs still produce below the national mean, and an equally significant number of ARB households have incomes below the poverty threshold.

Moreover, ARC development is also anchored on the performance of ARB organizations, mainly cooperatives. The 2002 assessment based on ALDA ratings shows that only 19 percent of ARB organizations have businesses run by fulltime management and staff.

Some studies on the impact of the CARP - expressed in terms of increased productivity and income, greater opportunities, and better welfare of ARB households - are fragmentary and unconsolidated. They represent the condition of selected ARCs, and do not necessarily reflect the general situation among ARCs. A more comprehensive assessment and quantification of the impact is needed, especially at the household level. There is an ongoing four-year CARP impact assessment being undertaken at the microlevel, mesolevel and macrolevel but complete results are not expected until 2004.

Some studies that indicate major increases in the income of ARB households need to be verified. For example, the JBICsponsored survey of three ARISP-assisted ARCs mentions a dramatic increase in the income of ARB households, averaging more than p120 000[16] per year per household. This is substantial considering that the national average annual income of rural households is p40 000 - 60 000.[17] However, the major portion of the increase (about 70 percent) was attributed to remittances from family members working abroad. It is not clear how much of the increase was due to or induced by the CARP, or whether the opportunity to work abroad was brought about by the CARP. Therefore, some findings about the positive impact of the CARP remain tentative in the absence of a definitive study that puts all the observed and perceived improvements into context.

However, despite the tentativeness of findings, there is no doubt that some improvements have occurred. It is just a matter of building and sustaining the momentum to achieve a high impact, though this in itself is a formidable task.

Still left out and somehow missing from the picture are the ARBs in non-ARC areas and ARBs in ARCs not covered by foreignassisted projects. Of the 1 543 ARCs nationwide, only 779, or 50.48 percent, are covered by the various foreign-assisted projects of the DAR.

As most of these ARBs have received far less in terms of support services, they are not expected to have attained the same level of achievement as those in ARCs covered by foreign-assisted projects. It is interesting to know how access to land through the CARP has improved their income and living conditions, if at all. Considering that ARBs in non-ARC areas are greater in number (of the estimated 3 million ARBs, only about 800 000 are in ARCs), the impact of the CARP on food security and poverty alleviation would logically be more tangible among these ARBs.


Despite the many serious constraints on its full implementation, and given the positive results of the various impact studies, this paper shares the view of many observers that the overall performance of the CARP is positive and encouraging. It has clearly benefited a significant portion of the rural population through its various programmes intended to alleviate poverty, ensure food security, and empower people towards the overall development of the country.


Completing land acquisition and distribution

Upon the inception of the CARP in 1988, the ARF was established with a budget of p50 000 million. The first ten years of the CARP had a LAD accomplishment of only 58 percent, but almost 90 percent (p44 700 million) of the ARF had been spent (p17 000 million by the Aquino government between 1988 and 1992, and p27 700 million by the Ramos government). Of the used fund, 37 percent was spent on LAD, 30 percent on programme beneficiaries development, and the rest on operational support, infrastructure, and special projects.

When President Estrada assumed office in 1998, the CARP had a backlog of 3 million ha, of which the DAR was to acquire and distribute about 1 million ha, mainly private agricultural lands. The DENR was to distribute some 2 million ha of public lands. The DAR estimated that about p111 800 million[18] would be needed to complete the remaining 42 percent of the CARP, of which 47 percent would be for LAD. At the end of 2002, the CARP's backlog was about 2.28 million ha.

However, the DAR's requests for an adequate LAD budget have been blocked consistently. In 1998, the Senate committee on appropriations transferred some p1 200 million[19] for LAD to support services. In 1999, only a little more than p1 000 million[20] was allotted for LAD.

In 2002, the budget provided was only enough to acquire 50 000 ha of private agricultural lands, when the target was at least 100 000 ha. There was then, and there is now, a dire lack of support for the CARP from legislators, as many of them are property owners themselves.

The challenge for the CARP is to find alternative sources of funds and to explore new modes of land tenure improvement that will not strain the financial resources of the government.

Filling up the support services gap

The budget problem also affects the government's capability to mobilize ODA funds. For the medium term 2002 - 2004, implementation of some 32 foreign-assisted projects that require p26 500 million[21] in counterpart funds has been deferred owing to budget constraints.

Table 4
Physical infrastructure support and services in ARCs

Farm-to-market roads

Required by ARCs

30 832.11 km


13 976.78 km




Required by ARCs

115 706.56 lm


47 295.26 lm



Pre-and post-harvest facilities

64% of ARBs have access

Irrigation systems

Required systems/projects

22 076.00


12 832.00



Service area

Requiring irrigation

490 986.28 ha


253 967.71 ha



ARBs with service area

Requiring irrigation

246 774.00 ARBs

With access to irrigation

140 018.00 ARBs



There remain huge gaps in the support services provided to ARBs in terms of physical infrastructure support, economic support, and organization building and strengthening (Table 4).

In terms of physical infrastructure support required by ARCs, the gaps are:

In terms of economic support, some 54 percent of ARCs do not have definite marketing outlets, and only 8 percent have organizations that have forged marketing contracts or agreements with the private sector (Table 5). Credit access of ARBs remains low. Only 38 percent have access to production loans, 59 percent to livelihood loans, and 5 percent to multipurpose loans (Table 5).

Table 5
Economic support services in ARCs

Marketing services

Credit access

54% of ARCs do not have definite marketing outlets

38% of ARBs requiring production loans have access

Only 8% have organizations that

59% of ARBs requiring

have forged marketing contracts or agreements

livelihood loans have access

5% of ARBs requiring multipurpose loans have access

In terms of maturity and strength of ARB organizations (cooperatives), the ARB membership ratio is 65 percent, while membership reach is a very low 29 percent. Based on the 2001 ALDA rating, only 22 percent of ARB organizations have a high level of maturity, 31 percent have a medium level of maturity, and 47 percent have a low level of maturity (Table 6).

It must be made clear that gaps in support services are in ARCs covered by foreign-assisted projects, which are only about half of the total number of ARCs nationwide. Moreover, all the ARCs contain only about one-third of the total number of ARBs.

In view of meagre resources, the possibility of convergence of resources with other CARP-implementing agencies and partners should be explored in order to sustain the provision of support services to ARBs.

Opposition by landowners

Generally, only large landowners, especially those belonging to the elite, oppose the CARP strongly. They are confined to specific areas, mainly the Visayan islands of Leyte, Negros and Panay. However, many of them have softened their attitudes and cooperated with the DAR after a sustained campaign of consultations and dialogues.

The main objection of landowners to the CARP arises from what they perceive as undervaluation of their property. This problem was addressed by DAR Secretary Morales when he issued guidelines for a revised method of land valuation. A landowners' assistance desk has also been created within the DAR to assist them with preparing their claim folders and other problems.

Table 6
Organizational maturity levels, ALDA rating, 2001

Level of maturity


No. org.






Low medium








High medium









ARB membership ratio


ARB membership reach


Financial resources

p701.38 million

Capital buildup

p544.69 million

Savings mobilized

p156.69 million

Where landowners have used armed personnel to harass farmer claimants, and even eject ARBs from the land that has been awarded to them, the government has called in the police and the military for help. The DAR has recently signed a memorandum of agreement with the national police to help enforce the CARP mandate. This has been successful. In a number of instances where farmer-beneficiaries had to be installed in the lands awarded to them, the presence of police and military authorities prevented violent confrontation.

The main challenge here is to continue to pursue consultations and dialogues to encourage and convince the resisting landowners to support the CARP.

Convergence of resources

The DAR has tried to promote a convergence strategy with the DENR and the Department of Agriculture (DA) as the two agencies are also involved in the CARP - the DENR through distribution of public lands and the DA through improving the productivity of farmers. In some cases, the functions of the three departments overlap.

The three agencies signed a joint memorandum circular in January 1999 agreeing to implement a convergence strategy in nine pilot areas (Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Quezon, Bicol, Bohol, Panay, Caraga, Davao and Zamboanga). They drafted an Area Strategic and Investment Program for each area, and each department committed an initial amount of p1.5 million.[22] The strategy did not follow through because the Estrada government collapsed.

The challenge for the CARP is to institutionalize a convergence strategy that would involve not only the DENR and the DA but also other CARP partners, including the private sector and civil society. This is important in pooling resources that could be used to undertake common activities that would promote the specific goals of each cooperator. In the process, convergence could stimulate synergy while easing the burden on the meagre resources of the government.

Partnership with local government units

Following the enactment of the Local Government Code in 1995, the functions of most government agencies have been devolved to local government units (LGUs). Thus, at the LGU municipal level, there are now municipal agricultural offices (devolved from the DA), rural health units (devolved from the Department of Health), etc.

The DAR is one of the few remaining national agencies whose functions have not been devolved. Thus, while its constituencies are the grassroots, it has not mobilized the full cooperation of LGUs in CARP implementation. The CARP is seldom included in the development plans or agenda of LGUs.

Many LGUs are unaware of the various programmes and projects of the DAR. The few who are aware are not keen on cooperating unless they are direct beneficiaries of the programme or project. Even then, their participation would be driven mainly by the institutional requirement for LGU counterpart funding for foreign-assisted projects.

Under the law, there are supposed to be barangay agrarian reform committees or councils (BARCs), but these are either non-existent or non-functional. As DAR functions are not devolved to the LGUs, the BARCs are not within the LGUs' jurisdiction.

The DAR has been encouraging LGUs to adopt the CARP in their development agendas. A few have expressed interest, but have not gone beyond that. The challenge for the DAR is how to embed the CARP agenda and operational structures within the organizational setup of LGUs so that implementation of the CARP will have a strong local base.

Private sector participation

Generally, the private sector has always been wary of entering into partnership with farmers or their organizations. Stories of farmers not honouring contracts, short deliveries or non-deliveries, failure to meet deadlines or product qualities, etc. are legion. Private entrepreneurs would rather deal with intermediaries than deal directly with farmers, who are considered very risky partners.

Through CARP support services, the government has been painstakingly trying to transform the ARBs into highly productive and competitive agriculturebased entrepreneurs. However, without involvement of the private sector, ARB development would be very slow, and the burden on government would be heavy.

The government has been promoting a wider matchup in agricultural production between ARBs and the private sector through market matching and agribusiness assistance to ARBs. It has arranged marketmatching consultations and dialogues, where links are forged between private entrepreneur-buyers and ARB producers.

As a result, assured markets have been opened up to the ARBs and their organizations. Hundreds of contracts have been signed and business tie-ups arranged between agribusiness enterprises and ARB organizations.

Not all contracts have gone smoothly, but many have been sustained. The challenge is to build momentum for this effort and strengthen the buyer - producer relationship.

In the process, the private sector could take over the role of providing capital and technical expertise to the ARBs. Aside from easing the burden on government resources, this would hasten the transformation of ARBs into agriculturebased entrepreneurs.

Other modalities/schemes on agrarian reform

The remaining few years of CARP implementation find the government moving into the most problematic phase of the programme. The government now has to go into sectors where landowner resistance is expected to be strong. The major sectors include private agricultural lands between 5 and 25 ha, large sugar and coconut farms, and the highly profitable commercial farms. The DAR is considering a scheme that would speed up the process of effecting land transfer, blend well with existing arrangements, and capitalize on the benefits gained and lessons learned from the CARP. In order to defuse landowner resistance, improve farmers' ability to pay, and increase the incentive for private sector participation, one evolving strategy for promoting agrarian reform is based on farmer - landowner negotiation in the land acquisition phase and community - state partnership in the planning, provision and management of productive investments and critical support services. This broad approach is consistent with the government's policy, thrusts and strategies of using market-based or demand-driven mechanisms and participatory processes to attain the objective of rural development.


Among the many lessons that can be learned from the CARP, some of the most important are:


Balisacan, A. & Hill, H. 2003. The Philippine economy: development, policies and challenges. Quezon City, Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University Press.

Bautista, G. & dela Cruz, L.R. 2002. Institutional and organizational assessment of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. Quezon City, Philippines, Institute of Philippine Culture, Ateneo de Manila University.

Bravo, M. & Pantoja, B. 1998. Beyond 2000: assessment of the economy and policy recommendations - social sector dealing with agrarian reform. Laguna, Philippines, Institute of Agrarian Reform and Rurban Development Studies, College of Public Affairs, University of the Philippines Los Baños.

Deininger, K., Lara Jr., F., Olinto, P. & Maertens, M. 2000. Redistribution, investment, and human capital accumulation: the case of agrarian reform in the Philippines. Unpublished study funded by the Swiss Special Studies Trust Fund.

Gordoncillo, P.U., Escueta, E.F., Peñalba, L.M. & Javier, F.A. 2002a. Assessment of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program and its impact on rural communities: household (micro) perspective. Laguna, Philippines, Institute of Agrarian Reform and Rurban Development Studies, College of Public Affairs, University of the Philippines Los Baños.

Gordoncillo, P.U., Escueta, E.F., Peñalba, L.M. & Javier, F.A. 2002b. Assessment of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program and its impact on rural communities: community (meso) perspective. Laguna, Philippines, Institute of Agrarian Reform and Rurban Development Studies, College of Public Affairs, University of the Philippines Los Baños.

Habito, C., Briones, R. & Paterno, E.M. 2001. Investment, productivity and land market impacts of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. Report submitted to the Department of Agrarian Reform.

Manasan, R.G. & Mercado, R.G. 2001. An evaluation of the fiscal aspect of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). Makati, Philippines, Philippine Institute for Development Studies.

Paunlagui, M. & Rola, A. 2001. The evolution of social capital and civic entrepreneurship under CARP. Laguna, the Philippines, Institute of Strategic Planning and Policy Studies, College of Public Affairs, University of the Philippines Los Baños.

Reyes, C.M. 2001. Impact of agrarian reform on poverty. (Unpublished paper)

Riedinger, J. & Kang, S. 2000. Back to land: revisiting the rationale for agrarian reform. In: The impact of agrarian reform and changing markets in rural households. MODE Research Papers. Vol. I, No. 4.

WB - ARCDP (World Bank - Agrarian Reform Communities Development Project). 2000. WB - ARCDP impact assessment report. Project publication. Quezon City, Philippines.

FAO/18232/J. Villamora

[11] This paper was prepared under contract with FAO and presented at the 29th Session of the Committee on World Food Security, Rome, 12 - 16 May 2003, Informal panel on the impact of access to land on improving food security and alleviating poverty. The positions and opinions presented are those of the author alone and are not intended to represent the views of FAO.
[12] In 1988, the peso/US$ (nominal) exchange rate was p21.09 = US$1 (source: Philippine [National] Economic Indicators Online, Money and Banking, External Indicators [Annual: 1987 - 2001]), available at
[13] In 1998, the peso/US$ (nominal) exchange rate was p40.54 = US$1.
[14] The exact US dollar equivalent of this figure could not be given because this development assistance was cumulative for the period 1993 - 97. The peso/dollar exchange rates during these years varied greatly. Hence, the peso equivalent of such assistance, at the time each allocation was extended to the Philippine Government, was simply added up.
[15] This total amount covers the years 1993 - 2002.
[16] The study was conducted in 2001 and the nominal exchange rate was p50.99 = US$1.
[17] Ibid.
[18] The nominal exchange rate in 1998 was p40.54 = US$1.
[19] Ibid.
[20] The nominal exchange rate in 1999 was p39.09 = US$1.
[21] The nominal exchange rate for 2002 is not available, but for 2001, the nominal exchange rate was p50.99 = US$1.
[22] The nominal exchange rate of p40.54 = US$1 for 1998 may be used here to compute the US dollar equivalent.

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page