Presidential frontrunner and Davao City Mayor Rody Duterte described the country’s land reform program as “a farce” and a “total failure” and said as President he would ask for its total review and improvement.
Speaking in a forum organised by the militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas with over 100 participants in the Balay Kalinaw of UP Diliman at noon yesterday, Duterte also reaffirmed his earlier commitment that as President he would give the country’s farmers free use of water for irrigation.
“Water is not owned by government. It is a national wealth. Farmers should be allowed to use it for free just as we use the roads and bridges for free,” Duterte said in an earlier interview in Davao City.
True to form, Duterte who is known for his unwavering stand on critical issues told the farmer leaders to give him time to review the land reform program to make sure that the program would really help the plight of the landless farmers.
“The land reform was a farce not because it was not given, but because there was no support from government,” he said.
In most cases, Duterte said the land reform beneficiaries ended up selling back the land given to them by government to the original owners.
“He might as well sell the land back to the land owner and his only consolation is he gets to hold big money,” Duterte said.
He said he would focus first on determining what would be needed to make the program effective for the beneficiaries.
“What do we do with those who have sold back the land to the landowners? What do we do with those who still have the land but were not given support by government?” Duterte asked.
Duterte also said that should he win the Presidency, he would order the crafting of a comprehensive agriculture map which would identify key food production areas in the country.
He said he would direct the Department of Agriculture to “make me a color-coded map, (to) see which crop is best in this area and we can focus (on) the assistance, what we will give to the farmers.”
Duterte said identifying the crop suitability of the different key food production areas of the country would enable him to focus on the delivery of basic infrastructure and farm support services to the farmers.
Reiterating his earlier public pronouncement of allowing the free use of water for the farmers to irrigate their fields, Duterte said he prioritise the implementation of this new policy.
“Yes, definitely, that. Ang una kong gawin, free water for the farmers, hindi na sila magbayad,” said in response to questions raised by reporters after the forum.
In an earlier interview in Davao City, Duterte chided Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala for shooting down his “free irrigation” advocacy.
Alcala was quoted as saying that free irrigation could not be given because there would be no funds left for the maintenance of the irrigation facilities.
“Bakit kung para sa bulsa nila, maraming pera. Bilyon-bilyon pero kung para sa magsasaka, walang pera,” Duterte said.
During his talk to the farmer leaders, Duterte also promised to restart the train services from Bicol to Manila and to implement the long-delayed Mindanao Railway System.
The Davao City Mayor was the only Presidential candidate who responded to the invitation of the KMP to speak in the forum.