Ninety-three-year-old Emerenciana Bustamante from Burgos, Pangasinan was teary-eyed after receiving her long-awaited certificate of land ownership award (CLOA) from Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary John Castriciones.

“My long wait is finally over! The land is now legally mine,” cried Bustamante who, together with her husband farmed the land for more than 40 years.

“I know my husband is smiling in heaven. Our dream of owning the land for our only child finally came true,” Bustamante said.

Bustamante is the oldest of the 155 jubilant agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) who received their CLOAs in a ceremony held at the Farmers’ Pavillion, Tebag East, Sta. Barbara, Pangasinan recently.

Castriciones together with Undersecretary for Field Operations Karlo Bello led the distribution of CLOAs and awarded certificates of training to 186 farmer-graduates.

The distributed lands covered some 322 hectares of agricultural lands located in the municipalities of Anda, Burgos, Dasol and Alaminos City.

Farmer Bustamante, who is also a retired teacher said that to augment their income, she taught in the elementary school while her late husband planted rice and fruit crops in the farm.

“Now that I am in my twilight years, and my husband is in heaven, I will leave this land to my only child and to my grandchildren. I’m so happy, I know their future will be secured because I have something to leave them with,” Bustamante said.

The agrarian reform chief said the department will not stop after land distribution. “We will put into action a convergence strategy to provide support services to our farmers.”

According to the agrarian reform head, among those lined up for implementation are housing projects for farmers, TESDA scholarships for children of ARBs, the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), provision of crop insurance from the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC), credit assistance from the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and from other financial institutions.

“We are lucky because we have a President who loves the farmers. He is very supportive and these support services will be conducted under his term,” he said.

Undersecretary Bello thanked the DAR personnel in Pangasinan for efficiently facilitating the distribution of CLOAs to farmer-beneficiaries.

“It is so heartwarming to see farmers with their happy faces. They are very grateful for finally owning the land they have been tilling for so long. On our part, we are just as happy working for all of you to own your land,” Bello said.

DAR Regional Director Judita Tungol said they have recently conducted various trainings to help strengthen farm cooperatives under the Social Infrastructure Building (SIB) of the department.

She said three farm officials from 62 farm cooperatives were trained on basic cooperative courses namely: rules formulation, basic accounting, standard setting, credit management and delinquency control.

“Part of our work is to assist our farmers in maintaining and sustaining their farm cooperatives. These courses are essential in helping them achieve that,” said Tungol.

DAR’s intensified CLOA distributions and releases of support programs and services are consistent with the mandate of President Rodrigo Duterte – to uplift the lives of the farmers in the country.

The President also mulls for the implementation of the second phase of agrarian reform program in the country, this time, to focus on government lands, specifically forest lands that have been left idle and undeveloped for agricultural production for years.

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