NE Mindanao land conversion probe ordered

manila bulletin blue logoButuan City – Regional Director Julita A. Ragandang of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) yesterday disclosed that provincial, city and provincial agrarian reform officers had been directed to conduct an inventory on agricultural lands reportedly converted for industrial or commercial use.

The  DAR chief in northeastern Mindanao (Caraga region) also ordered field officers to conduct consultations with all concerned government agencies and local government units (LGUs) to check the situation of land beneficiaries, as she expressed alarm that the food security program of the government might be affected by the reduction of the area used for agriculture.

He said although local governments, under the Local Government Code Section 20, can authorize reclassifying agricultural lands into industrial, commercial, or residential, it should serve its purpose.

In Butuan City alone, the region’s premier and capital city, an estimated 2,000 agricultural parcels of land have already been converted into industrial areas and housing subdivisions.

Director Ragandang also ordered investigation on the reported sale of certificate of land ownership award (CLOA) by some agrarian reform beneficiaries to some mining companies in Taganaan, Tubod and Placer, all in Surigao del Norte.

Unconfirmed reports reaching the regional office of the agency indicate that some agrarian reform beneficiaries sold their CLOAs for P700,000 per hectare.

“I hope this is not true because we award these CLOAs to them (agrarian reform beneficiaries) in an effort to improve their living condition by cultivating these lands to be productive,” he added.

Under the law, ARBs who are proven to have illegally sold their land awards shall be perpetually disqualified from being an agrarian reform beneficiary again.

She appealed to all agrarian reform beneficiaries to value the land by making them agriculturally productive. “These lands are meant to provide you and your family food throughout your life”, she said.

In Surigao del Norte, 14,512 beneficiary farmers now own agricultural lands; 1,990  of them are from the three above-mentioned municipalities.