Evaluation for Federal Ministry of Germany for Economic Cooperation and Development

There are more differences than similarities between the READ Program and the Bondoc Development Program (BDP)

The BDP is implemented by the local government (LGUs) of Bondoc. Key line agencies in agrarian reform and rural development, namely, the DAR, DA, DECs, DENR and DOH are excluded from the BDP. In contrast, the READ program in Central Luzon is implemented by an NGO with PO partners with the distinctive participation of the DAR (Department of Agrarian Reform) in program implementation. Unfortunately, the leading role of the LGU is problematic in the LTI arena because most leading officials of the LGU are also big landowners.

Bondoc Peninsula is mainly rural. Contested was land ownership are coconut lands and uplands that are classified as forests but have been titled to private individuals. Central Luzon consists mainly of flat lands, the bulk of which is used for rice production and, secondarily, for sugarcane and tree crops like mangoes. One distinctive character of Central Luzon that is absent in Bondoc is the rapidly changing landscape in favor of urbanization and the emergence of commercial and industrial zones. Consequently, movements in land reclassification, land conversion and land speculation are more intense in Central Luzon than in Bondoc. Correspondingly, land prices have increased rapidly in the region compared to the stagnant land market of Bondoc.

The media has little access to Bondoc compared to Central Luzon because of distance and topography. This explains the significant role played by the media in Central Luzon.

The NGO-PO-DAR alliance that is prominent in the READ Program is not prominent in the BDP, especially at the local level. The participation of the national leadership of the DAR in the BDP was prominent only during the Estrada administration when the full force of the law was applied in acquiring the land of a big landowner. In the READ Program, the DAR-NGO-PO alliance operates across the national, regional and provincial bodies of the DAR.

As pointed out in the last evaluation of the BDP, the project has concentrated too much on land acquisition and neglected the economic development of the beneficiaries. Even years after they acquired land ownership, farmers have not developed ideas on how to make their land profitable. They are completely stagnant in this regard. This is different from the targeted approach of PDI which emphasizes both aspects and supports implementation of both.

Points of similarity of the two programs are in the areas of LTI and empowerment.  LTI is the central component of the READ Program. In the BDP, LTI is just one key result area among seven.

The two projects have similar attributes around LTI: organizing, mobilization, advocacy and alliance building as well as information dissemination, education and training. However, NGO empowerment efforts in the BDP are focused mainly on meta-legal mobilization to acquire big landed estates. In the READ Program, the empowerment objective includes, among others, initiatives in women’s empowerment and alternative livelihoods.

What is common among the two programs is the seemingly universal attitude and behavior of big landowners to resist land reform using legal as well as extra-legal means.