3.7 On the new rural stratification
The present stratification among the peasantry is certainly much more complex than it was back in 1972. In the official categorization there are now emancipation patent holders; full owners (victims of bureaucratic delay in obtaining their EPs); amortizing owners; non-amortizing ‘deemed owners’, some of whom still pay lease rentals (FB-IIs) and others of whom still pay share rentals (FB-Is); and leaseholders-by-law on rice and corn area exempt from OLT due to the 7 hectare retention rule. Most of these people are probably either poor or on what appears to be a fairly wide borderline between poverty and non-poverty. Perhaps a few are no longer poor, at least by their own standards. Nevertheless, these farmers, as a group, are clearly not undeserving of any redistributive benefits which may emanate from a land reform programme in general or from an Operation Land Transfer in particular.
Recent research, particularly by Ledesma1 and Kikuchi,2 has called attention to a new class of sub-tenants, who operate some part of the land area of tenants but without any land reform privileges of their own, and to the inexorably growing army of landless workers. These classes, not yet recognized by the official land reform agencies as part of their dramatis personae, have grown in importance, I would suppose, mainly on account of demographic factors. They compete keenly for the land, to the extent that there has existed, for many years now, a market and a going price for the tenancy right (puesto), even though there is no formal or legal system of recognition.
The landless workers, who are definitely among the poorest in the rural sector, are not covered by the land reform programme. The programme is basically oriented to tenants, who are a class clearly distinct from the landless. In the census definition, ‘farmers’ are operators of farms and, as such, have a clearly demarcated farm area. They may be either owners or tenants on the land. The landless workers, on the other hand, have no present claim on an identificable plot of land, although some of them may be close family members of a farm operator and stand to inherit the latter’s claim (whether ownership claim or tenancy claim) to his land at some future date. Obviously, when there is more than one inheritor-operator, then the farmland will become fragmented, and the succeeding generation will get closer to absolute landlessness.
As estimated in Ledesma’s table, in 1979 there were 7.34 million persons in the agricultural labour force, of whom 2.50 million were farmers, viz., farm-operators. As a conservative approach, we may assign one heir to each farmer and further suppose that this heir is currently a member of the labour force (this is an overstatement since for some of the younger farmers the prospective heir is not yet born). This gives an estimate of 5.00 million farmers plus farmer-heirs, and hence of (7.34-5.00 =) 2.34 million landless workers, who constitute about one-third of the total agricultural labour force.
The economic conditions in which the landless live are described in a Workshop report of the Philippine Council on Agricultural and Resources Research (PCARR).3 A. Tidalgo, of the Technical Board on Agricultural Credit, reports an average income among the landless of only 2.150 per year in 1978, from a sample covering one barangay in each of the provinces of Iloilo, Pampanga and Camarines Sur. C. Custodio, of the U.P. Los Baños National Training Centre for Rural Development, reports an average income of 1,940 per year among the landless in rice/corn areas and of 1,470 per year among the landless in sugar/coconut/abaca/tobacco areas.4 E. Tejada, of the National Federation of Sugar Workers, reports that 58 per cent of a sample of 319 sugar plantation workers in Negros Occidental province received less than the official minimum wage (30 per cent received the minimum and 11 per cent received more than the minimum). A. Ledesma, then with the International Rice Research Institute, observed that his sample of 97 landless workers in Iloilo province, who were much worse off than leaseholders and amortizing owners, spent more man-days per season in working in rice-farms than the rice farm operators themselves.
For the sake of distributive justice, such poverty-stricken classes also deserve to be beneficiaries of some sort of land reform programmes. However, the fact that as yet they have been left out does not, I think, imply that those who have benefited have done so at their expense.
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