Why do farmers need individual titles?

A case for subdividing collective titles under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program

Center for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development - Pilipinas

Jul 10, 2018
Why do farmers need individual titles?

Bienvenido Villarena is a farm labourer from Barangay Badiangon, President Roxas, Capiz. He is a part-owner of a collectively-titled landholding, which was then part of one of the largest sugarcane plantations in Capiz, the Locsin Estate. When he, together with other farmers in his group received their collective title, they thought that they would finally be able to earn more than the daily pittance that they receive as farm workers of the Estate.

But the good news stopped there.

With the need to fast track land distribution in the 1990s, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) moved from one province to another to provide farmers with collective certificates of land ownership awards (CLOA). These are land titles issued to farmer-groups, and were vastly issued in sugarcane plantations where farm workers were waged on a piecemeal basis (planting, cutting, harvesting and hauling of crops), and therefore do not farm a specific plot of land. According to former DAR Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes, collective CLOAs were designed to be subdivided later on and were issued in more than 2.1 million hectares of agrarian land, which, by the same government estimate, covers about 46 percent of all areas covered by CARP in the Philippines. In Villarena's home province, landholdings with collective CLOAs are comprised of almost 11 000 hectares of agricultural land“ 15 percent of the total CARP scope in the province of Capiz.

The problem of collective CLOAs in plantation farms

The coordinates found in collective CLOAs only identify the outside perimeters or boundaries of a landholding, and not the inner boundaries shared by farmer-beneficiaries. In non-plantation landholdings, this has resulted in boundary disputes, which often get complicated as the farmer grows old and starts subdividing his/her properties among his/her farming children.

In plantation landholdings, farmers were given huge chunks of land but with no agreements on their specific farming plots. As the land is usually named after an organization (which was often only loosely organized, and was done so only because of the need to have a name for the farmers' collective CLOAs), the brunt of decision-making usually falls on the officers of the organizations. As in some cases in collectively-titled landholdings in Capiz, these organizations usually decide to leaseback their land to the former landowner or to other businesses, with the farmers getting meagre compensation (around PhP 10 000 per hectare per year) and returning as waged farm workers. According to farmers who were interviewed in a focus-group discussion (FGD) in President Roxas in 2017, their current average household income amounts to only half of what a family of five needs in order to meet basic food requirements. "Because we do not have individual titles and we don't know what plot of land to till, we are forced to follow the organization and continue planting sugarcane," Villarena narrated, "Our village is far from the town proper. We cannot plant rice even for our own consumption. There were months when we consume root crops for food."

Collectivization, succession, land taxes and land amortization

The average age of a Filipino farmer is 57 to 59 years old. The absence of a proper succession policy is thus becoming a major problem in collectively-titled landholdings. In cases where the original beneficiaries have passed away, the determination of succession has become a tedious bureaucratic process.

Additionally, because no subdivision surveys were conducted in collective CLOA landholdings, no proper valuations for land tax payments can also be afforded by the local government. According to a synthesis report prepared for the World Bank in 2016, collective CLOAs resulted in low payment rates of real property taxes. For instance, a fourth class municipality in Region VI loses at least PhP 850 000 a year in uncollected property taxes from collectively-titled landholdings. While collective payments considering the outer perimeters would have been ideal in this set-up, a large proportion of collective CLOA holders do not have organized farmer associations and were therefore unprepared for collective land management.

Furthermore, payment to Land Bank of the Philippines (LANDBANK), which would result to the awarding of the owner's title of CLOA, cannot be facilitated in collective CLOA landholdings. By policy, LANDBANK only accepts amortization payments from farmers in landholdings with validated land amortization schedules. The non-acceptance of payment causes farmers some level of insecurity – as they fear that LANDBANK and the local government unit would seize their land because of their inability to pay their obligations.

Procedural and structural bottlenecks in subdividing collective CLOAs

De los Reyes noted that the process of de-collectivization is one of the major residual tasks of DAR in the implementation of CARP. As CARP is implemented by a number of national government agencies, coordination challenges are considered as a major structural bottleneck in de-collectivization.

Based on DAR Administrative Order (AO) 03-93, the de-collectivization process undergoes eight major steps, each with a specific set of documentary requirements that the farmers need to comply in order to move on to the succeeding step. FGDs revealed that farmers face difficulties in complying with these requirements because: (a) they do not know what specific requirements are needed at each phase/ step; (b) they do not have access to some of the documents; and (c) they lack the resources to go through bureaucratic procedures to be able to get these documents. Each day spent in attending to these processes has a high opportunity cost, as it means giving up the time spent for earning for the family.

From the cases that were reviewed by CARRD, the following assumptions are drawn:

- There is a need for specific agency policies to clarify specific processes within the steps in subdividing collective CLOAs;

- Each case of subdivision is unique. Organizational requirements and costs will therefore depend on the nature of problem faced by the landholding; and

- Most of the sources of bottlenecks may be potentially resolved by social preparation strategies and grassroots interventions.

How does a non-government organization like Center for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (CARRD) help?

In the next five years, CARRD aims to contribute to current efforts of the government to subdivide collective titles by assisting in the resolution of structural and procedural bottlenecks in the process of de-collectivization, particularly in Western Batangas, first district of Capiz, and fourth district of Iloilo. As a policy, CARRD recognizes the need for improved community engagement and multi-stakeholder involvement to find common ground in resolving disputes and challenges in the implementation of CARP. Sustained by a better policy on collective CLOA subdivision, for which CARRD will lobby for in the next five years, improved community and other stakeholders' participation may result to co-creation strategies that will address unique subdivision cases and lend insights on how other agrarian cases can be resolved.

Want a copy of the research study of CARRD on collective CLOAs? Email us at carrdinc@gmail.com


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