• Melo Acuna

World Bank extends funding for DAR Project

Agrarian Reform program gets US$370 million loan

MANILA – At least 750,000 farmers are expected to realize their dreams of having improved and secured land tenure as well as stable property rights as a new project will enable them to receive land titles for some 1.3 million hectares of land under the country’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP)

The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors today approved the US$370 million funding, at a meeting in Washington, for the Support to Parcelization of Lands for Individual Titling Project (SPLIT). It is designed to hasten the subdivision of collective Certificates of Land Ownership Award and generate individual titles on lands awarded under the CARP.

“Many farmers who were granted lands under the country’s agrarian reform program have been waiting for individual titles, sometimes for decades,” said Achim Fock, World Bank Acting Country Director for Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand. He said the project will provide thee farmers the opportunity, on voluntary basis, to get legal proof and the security of individual land rights.

He said he expects the program will encourage farmers to invest in their property and adopt better technologies for better productivity and higher incomes.

Mr. Fock said improved land tenure security would contribute to poverty reduction and rural economic growth as well as strengthen farmers’ resilience against impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He added with the economic slowdown, subsistence farmers are at a significant risk of falling deeper into poverty as many of them have no social security, savings and access to formal financing.

“With individual land titles, beneficiaries will have greater access to credit and financing, and government assistance,” he added.

The country of more than 7,100 islands had an extensive history of inequitable land tenure. From the Spanish colonial period from 1565 to 1898, large private estates dominated the rural landscape. Farmers cultivated the land under share-cropping arrangements without freedom to choose the crops they grew and option to own the land they tilled.

In 1980, 60 percent of the agricultural population was landless with many of them poor. To correct the widespread land tenure inequality, the Legislature passed the Agrarian Reform law in 1988 and implemented the CARP to improve the lives of subsistence farmers through land tenure security and support services.

Despite criticisms of being slow-paced in land distribution, the program distributed 4.8 million hectares or 16 percent of the nation’s land to nearly three million beneficiaries. Only about 53 percent of lands distributed was in the form of individual titles. In the 1990s, the government issued collective land ownership awards to increase the land distribution phase hoping with the subdivision and titling them individually at some future time.

Quite recently, the Philippine government embarked on a renewed push for individual titling to speed up transformation in far0flung areas. Through the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), the SPLIT Project will support the government’s on-going efforts for parcelization and individual titling with the adoption of improved technologies and digital platforms, improvements in regulations, streamlining of procedures in the titling process and enhanced consultations with beneficiaries. (Melo M. Acuña)

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A photo of the countryside, Polangui-Oas boundary in Albay. (Melo M. Acuna Photo)

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