Amadeusz Juskowiak

Aquino announces land reform plans

President Corazon Aquino announced government plans to devote to land reform an estimated 24 billion pesos about one billion US Dlrs raised from the sale of failed businesses taken over by the government

Aquino said she was willing to have her familys sugar estate broken up in compliance with Philippine land reform programmes but hinted it would not be offered voluntarily

Whatever laws will be enacted I say that nobody is above the law and that includes me My brothers and sisters are Filipino citizens We will abide by whatever laws are enacted as far as sugar land is concerned she told reporters

A committee was now formulating guidelines for the plan including the question of whether land operated by multinational companies should also be covered she added

Agrarian Reform Secretary Heherson Alvarez said recently the government planned to distribute 97 mln hectares of land to impoverished farmworkers under a revised land reform programme

The plan requiring about 17 billion dlrs now also covers sugar and coconut areas apart from rice and corn lands he said It was expected to benefit about three mln landless peasants he added

Land reform pressure groups have called on Aquino to break up her familys 6000hectare sugar estate to demonstrate her sincerity on the issue political analysts have called one of the most pressing problems facing the Philippines

It was not known whether government would wait for the Congress to convene by midyear to formalise the programme or have Aquino carry it out through an executive order

Under the plan government will purchase land mainly from landowners with holdings over seven hectares It will include vacant and untenanted farmland as well as 50000 hectares seized from former associates of deposed president Ferdinand Marcos

REUTER