Washington, DC – Around 750,000 people are expected to gain improved land tenure security and stable property rights through a new project that will facilitate land titles for over 1.3 million hectares of land that was granted as part of the Philippines’ Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors today approved the US$370 million Support to Parcelization of Lands for Individual Titling Project (SPLIT). The project is designed to accelerate the subdivision of collective Certificates of Land Ownership Award and generate individual titles on lands awarded under the CARP.
“Many farmers who were granted lands under the country’s agrarian reform program have been waiting for individual titles, sometimes for decades,” said Achim Fock, World Bank Acting Country Director for Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand. “This project will provide them the opportunity, on a voluntary basis, to get legal proof and the security of individual land rights. We expect that this will encourage them to invest in their property and adopt better technologies for greater productivity and higher incomes.”
He added that improved land tenure security would contribute to poverty reduction and rural economic growth and strengthen farmers’ resilience against impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Due to the economic slowdown, subsistence farmers are at a significant risk of falling deeper into poverty,” Fock said. “Many of them lack social security, savings, and access to formal financing. With individual land titles, beneficiaries will have greater access to credit and financing, as well as government assistance.”
The Philippines has an extensive history of inequitable land tenure. Beginning with the Spanish colonial period from 1565-1898, large private estates dominated the rural landscape. Farmers cultivated the land under share-cropping arrangements, with neither freedom to choose the crops they grew nor the option to own the land they tilled.
By 1980, 60 percent of the agricultural population was landless, many of them poor. To rectify this pervasive land tenure inequality, the Congress passed the agrarian reform law in 1988 and implemented the CARP to improve the lives of small farmers by offering them land tenure security and support services.
Over the past three decades, CARP has distributed 4.8 million hectares – 16 percent of the nation’s land – to almost three million beneficiaries. However, only approximately 53 percent of lands distributed was in the form of individual titles. Especially in the 1990s, the government issued mostly collective land ownership awards to speed up land distribution, with the intention of subdividing and titling them individually at a future time.
Recently, the Philippine government has embarked on a renewed push for individual titling to hasten transformation in rural areas. Implemented by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), the SPLIT Project will support the government’s on-going efforts for parcelization and individual titling through the adoption of improved technologies and digital platforms, improvements in regulations, streamlining of procedures in the titling process, and enhanced consultations with beneficiaries.