Imee: Near Half-Century Land Reform Program Little Cause To Celebrate

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Senator Imee Marcos has called out the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) for approving only 33 scholarship grants for which thousands of children of land reform beneficiaries had applied.

“Mas maraming nabigo kaysa natuwa, ngayon pa namang nagmahal ang edukasyon dahil sa pandemya,” Marcos said Thursday, which marks the 49th year since Presidential Decree 27 launched the country’s land reform program.

(More were disappointed than delighted, considering education is now more expensive due to the pandemic.)

Marcos noted that only Php2.357 million was spent for scholarship grants, even as Php800 million in DAR funds remain parked in the now controversial PS-DBM (Procurement Service – Department of Budget and Management), which government agencies have used to make unspent funds appear obligated and keep them from being returned to the national treasury.

“There’s a lack of vision and dedication here, when DAR scrimps on benefits for those they are supposed to serve while COA (Commission on Audit) flags the parking of Php800 million in unliquidated funds in PS-DBM,” Marcos said.

To solve the shortfall, Marcos urged the DAR to increase its funding for scholarship grants in its proposed budget for 2022, citing that at present it was less than 1% of the Php400 million allotted for a similar program for coconut farmers.

Marcos added that the DAR can improve its accomplishment record in distributing land to more farmers if areas “less problematic” than the Bicol, Western Visayas, and Eastern Visayas regions were given more attention.

“We’ve had the longest land reform program on earth! Besides awarding farmers the land they till, education for their children will give the goal of land reform a truly happy ending,” Marcos said.