THE DEPARTMENT of Agrarian Reform (DAR) yesterday said the distribution of land to farmers will continue even though the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER; Republic Act 9700) will expire this June 30.
In a statement released yesterday, the DAR sought to reassure various members of civil society, including members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines who had written to President Benigno S. C. Aquino III for an extension of the CARPER law until the end of his term in 2016.DAR Undersecretary Anthony N. Paruñgao, in the statement, cited Section 30 of RA 9700, which provides for the program’s continuation after the law expires. He also noted legislative initiatives for CARP extension “that will remove any and all doubts on the legal basis land acquisition and distribution after June 30”.
Citing the documentation and technical procedures involved, DAR defended itself against criticisms of “sluggishness” and explained that the acquisition of private agricultural lands for distribution “requires more time and is more contentious”.
DAR Undersecretary for Field Operations Jose Z. Grageda, in the same statement, said the issuance of Notices of Coverage (NoCs) is moving.
An NoC initiates the compulsory acquisition and distribution of private agricultural lands, one of the modes of distribution under the CARPER law, according to the statement.
“In 2012, the DAR was able to issue 25,841 NoCs covering 239,337 hectares for landholdings above 10 hectares. For 2013, another 18,460 NoCs were issued covering 210,655 hectares for these bigger lands,” Mr. Grageda was quoted saying.
“In April 2013, the DAR started issuing NoCs to small landholdings below 10 hectares. Some 12,098 NoCs covering 70,538 hectares for these small landholdings were issued in 2013. Thus, for 2013, some 30,558 NoCs were issued, covering 281,192 hectares,” he added.
He said 4,397 landholdings covering 43,676 hectares have yet to be issued NoCs.
In addition, there are 7,058 landholdings covering 69,339 hectares that have not been issued NoCs because they are “problematic”.
Mr. Grageda said these are the lands for which DAR has encountered problems like missing, unreadable, or “chop-chop” titles, and so forth.
Mr. Paruñgao also said: “In many cases, the titles are already missing or destroyed by floods or fire. Some of the titles have also been defaced.”
He also noted that landowners may take to the courts to question the acquisition of their lands.
Mr. Grageda said that all measures are being undertaken to address these problems.
Meanwhile, NoCs for around 80,000 hectares more, mostly for small landholdings, are also currently being prepared, according to the statement.
Mr. Grageda also noted that NoCs already issued can be found on the DAR Web site.
“Anybody can check whether a particular landholding has been issued an NoC. In this same webpage, anybody can report a landholding that he/she thinks should be covered by CARP,” he said.
Mr. Grageda also said that the DAR has asked for the assistance and support of the various civil society organizations in identifying CARPable lands so that they can be served NoCs.
So far, more than 1,000 landholdings covering about 20,000 hectares have been added for compulsory acquisition, he said.
The annual budget for CARP is estimated at P20 billion, according to DAR documents. -- I.C.C. Delavin