The issues of Agrarian Reform in Pre-Colonial Era, Spanish Era and American Era
Agrarian Reform is one of the most significant economic policies that has taken place in the history of the Philippines. It has undergone many changes throughout the years, particularly in the pre-colonial era, Spanish era and American era. The implementation of Agrarian Reform is based on the principle that agriculture is a vital element of the economy, and it is necessary to distribute land equitably for agricultural development. This essay will discuss the issues of Agrarian Reform in Philippines in pre-colonial era, Spanish era and American era.
The pre-colonial era was characterized by communal land ownership. The lands are owned by the community and not by individuals. The Tagalog people practiced this kind of land ownership system in which anyone can till the land as long as he is a member of the community. The pre-colonial era was also characterized by the “Lupaing Irrigable“ or irrigable land. It refers to the land area suitable for growing rice through an irrigation system. The government would allocate the land according to the size of the family and their needs.
The Spanish era brought with it a feudalistic system, where the king owned all the land in the country. The Friars, who were the agents of the King, owned vast tracks of land called “Haciendas“. The lands were worked on by Filipinos who were known as “Sakadas”. Under this system, the tenants were merely sharecroppers, and they had no rights over the land they were tilling. They were forced to pay high rents, and they were subjected to various forms of abuses. The Philippine Revolution aimed to overthrow this unjust system and to give the lands back to their rightful owners, the farmers.
During the American Era, the Philippine Bill of 1902 established the concept of public lands. These lands could be acquired by any individual, including foreigners, through homestead-type applications. The concept of private property was introduced, where ownership was vested in an individual or a corporation. In 1934, the Tydings-McDuffie Act was passed, which prohibited land acquisitions by non-Filipinos. However, large tracts of land were still owned by the landed elites who were mostly American corporations, which left much of the population without access to land.
In conclusion, Agrarian Reform has gone through many changes in the Philippines, from communal ownership in the pre-colonial era to the feudalistic system under the Spanish era to the homestead-type applications introduced during the American era. The issues faced by agrarian reform in the Philippines include the concentration of land ownership among a few people, the exploitative nature of tenancy agreements, and the lack of access to land by the majority of the population. It is essential to have an Agrarian Reform policy that addresses these issues, wherein land is equitably distributed among the people, and the rights of the farmers are upheld.