Thursday, June 5, 2008

“Poor” grade for government’s asset reform

“Poor.” This was the dismal grade for the implementation of asset reform laws intended to benefit farmers, indigenous communities, the fisherfolk and the urban poor.

In this season when the country is suffering from a crisis in food security, comes the information that those who belong to the mentioned sectors, with the exception of the urban poor, are mostly food producers. Asset reform in these sectors has been slow. No wonder!

The Philippine Asset Reform Report Card (PARRC) Project gave the dismal grade of “poor” after conducting a survey that involved “the largest samples studied to date of beneficiaries in the four asset reform programs.” The Philippine Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Area (Phildhrra) spearheaded the survey project.

Here is the State of the Nation for you. The survey hopes to put asset reform in the nation’s development agenda. I hope government officials in the executive and legislative branches would take a long, hard look at the survey results. They know how to interpret facts and figures and read the signs of the times. (A number of them also know how to be makapal and act as endorsers in product ads and advocacies. These ads may have worked for name and face recall but none of these politicians will get my vote.)

Described as comprehensive and the largest of its kind, the survey involved 1,851 agrarian reform beneficiaries in 32 provinces, 468 beneficiaries of various socialized housing programs in 19 provinces, 108 holders of CADCs and CADTs in 29 provinces and 92 coastal municipalities.

Former head of the National Economic Development Authority (and Inquirer columnist) Dr. Cielito Habito, research team leader, presented the PARCC to various NGOs, donor agencies, members of the academe, representatives from government and the media last week.

The PARRC Project defines asset reform as “(redistribution of) resource endowments to designated marginalized sectors though a process that awards a tenurial instrument to target beneficiaries that provides them ownership or security of tenure over the subject asset.”

Agrarian reform. The PARCC Project findings show that less than half (44.3%) of agrarian reform beneficiaries ARBs were able to access credit. Only 7% said the government provided credit.

More than half (52.3%) do not have access to post-harvest facilities (threshers, driers, haulers, warehouses, etc.). Government provision of post harvest facilities is 37.9%.

13.7% of those surveyed said they experienced legal or physical harassment from one or more sectors.

Ancestral domain. Extractive operations such as mining and logging are the most prevalent in indigenous communities and such operations are present in more than one-third (39.8%) of ancestral domains.

Majority of the extractive activities (72.1%) operate without the consent of the communities. Processing of tenurial instruments are delayed. Three to five years is what it takes from the application of certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) to its issuance, and another six months for the awarding. It takes at least four years to convert a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Claim (CADC) to a CADT.

The good news is that access to infrastructures and extension services is high, said 73.1% of total respondents.

Fisherfolk. They are perhaps one of the most neglected sectors. 78.3% of respondents said they did not have adequate housing even if the Fisheries Code mandates that government provide them with settlements.

More than half of the respondents (52.3%) said commercial fishing vessels encroached on municipal waters

Only one-third (32.6%) said they have access to post-harvest facilities (fishports, ice plants, cold storage, fish landing, fish processing plants).

Less than two-third of all respondents have access to credit. Government has provided only one-third of the credit.

Only 66.7% of local government units with coastal areas issued an ordinance setting the extent of their municipal waters.

Socialized housing. The community mortgage program (CMP) has had little to offer. Respondents complained of inadequate drainage and water supply systems, bad roads, absence of street lights, the slow pace of purchase commitment line approvals.

Despite presidential proclamations, a majority (56%) said they have yet to receive any certificate of lot entitlement; 87% are not yet paying any monthly amortization and almost 50% reported that their communities have no community development plans.

Slightly more than half (54%) of the beneficiaries have received Individual Notice of Lot Award; and only 23% have started to secure ownership of their land through payment of amortization.

Satisfaction, performance ratings. But despite the above, respondents still gave “positive net satisfaction ratings”. “Mababaw lang ang kaligayahan ng Pilipino” (It takes so little to make Filipinos happy), Habito quipped.

All of the respondents are supposed to be beneficiaries of asset reform programs through the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988, the Indigenous People’s Rights Act of 1992, the Fisheries Code of 1988 and various socialized housing programs. These laws are intended to provide security of tenure, support services and legal protection to their beneficiaries.

In the performance department it was a different story. The rating was generally “poor to fair at best.”

The survey was done in partnership with the Koalisyon ng Katutubong Samahan ng Pilipinas, the John J. Carroll Institute on Church and Social Issues, People’s Campaign for Agrarian Reform and NGOs for Fisheries Reform.