Palauig, Zambales—Inspired by a biblical story about the deliverance of Israelites from a pandemic, Agrarian Reform Secretary John R. Castriciones has been going around to spread his message of hope to farmers.
Under his leadership, the agency initiated what they called “their boldest move in history.”
Anthony Delos Reyes, a young farmer from Barangay Pangolingan here, was surprised when a convoy stopped by the roadside adjacent his 7,500 square meter farm. He was surprised to meet high ranking Department of Agrarian Reform officials accompanied by Zambales Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane.
“If my father is here today, I am sure he would be jumping with joy. I was 13 years old when I started to work in this farm. Finally, this much-awaited land title came,” a tearful Delos Reyes said while extending his arm for a fist-bump, the popular signature of President Rodrigo Duterte’s supporters, with the DAR Secretary and Governor Ebdane.
Not far from Delos Reyes’ farm, DAR Central Luzon Regional Director Ma. Celestina M. Tam organized as drop-off of farm inputs and seeds. Other farmers also received their land titles in a simple ceremony constrained by strict health protocols.
“We have 2.4-million names in the list of agrarian reform beneficiaries in our database. The total land distributed to the tillers is more than 4-million hectares. Up to now, we are still distributing land titles that farmers longed for decades ago,” DAR Undersecretary for Policy, Planning and Research Virginia N. Orogo said.
“The average age of farmers is 57. This pandemic seems to have created an opportunity to reverse this trend. Airline workers turned jobless. Some flight stewards are now selling fish balls in the streets. It’s time for us to embrace farming as a way of life,” Castriciones told a group of senior farmers.
An 84-year-old farmer proudly claimed he is still farming despite his age. Governor Ebdane proudly claimed that he won because senior citizens voted for him. “That is why I am very close to farmers,” he said.
Castriciones shares the fear that farming is an endangered occupation as most parents wanted their children get a college degree just to avoid the perceived hardships of farming.
“You need to organize yourselves. If you plan together, you will enjoy better opportunities. Government can give you machineries and irrigation, crop insurance, and help you find better opportunities in the market,” DAR Undersecretary for Support Services Emily O. Padilla told farmers.
DAR urged farmers to register in the Registry System of Basic Sectors in Agriculture or RSBSA.
“When people from DAR would go to you later and ask for interview, please entertain them and give the most truthful information. This will help government plan and deliver services,” Orogo said.
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