Opening Remarks at theConsultation on the Preparation for
the National Rural Congress
held at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center
27 November 2007
This year we celebrate the 40th year of the issuance of “Populorum Progressio— Development of People” by Pope Paul VI. There the Pope states that a redistribution of land as part of sound policies of agrarian reform is indispensable for genuine economic development (PP no.23).
According to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace: “Agrarian reform therefore becomes a moral obligation more than a political necessity, since the failure to enact such reform is a hindrance in developing countries to the benefits arising from the opening of markets and, generally, from the abundant growth opportunities offered by the current process of globalization” (Compendium of the Social Doctrines no. 300).
Premised on the above, we view the continued relevance of agrarian reform in the Philippines. If there has been any deficiency or neglect in the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1998, we recommend that its cure be addressed in successive implementation. Chronic rural poverty is linked to the rural poor’s lack of control over access to basic productive resources, such as land, water and forest resources.
In the light of the social doctrine on agrarian reform, there is moral obligation to grant the rural workers their legitimate desire to participate in the ownership of the land they till and in the profits of their toil. Sharing of land as well as of goods and goodness is a demand of the principles of human dignity, equality and stewardship. According to the most recent poverty report by the Asian Development Bank, three fourths of the Philippines remained poor and rural. This means that they have limited access to food, education, health security, housing and employment.
In the current discussion and debate on the agrarian reform program, I hope and pray that the concerned sectors will be able to come up with needed monitoring schemes, support services, and assistance from related of the rural poor— on whose work on the land depends the life of the nation—a reform, an improvement of and extension of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program will need the support of the legislative and executive arms of government.