‘Government must ban land conversion soon’

on . Posted in DAR In The News
business mirrorThe Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) on Monday again appealed to President Duterte to immediately issue an executive order (EO) that would allow a two-year moratorium on land conversion. Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael V. Mariano issued the statement after his department received land-conversion applications covering a bigger area in the first three months alone this year.

Mariano noted that the DAR has already received 13 applications, covering a combined area of 1,668 hectares, nearly eight times more than the combined 215.44 hectares covered by 13 applications filed in the same period last year.

“We are speaking here only of the first three months of 2017. The more land is diverted to nonagricultural use, the lesser the agricultural production there will be, which may lead to the rising cost of commodities,” he said in a statement.
In pushing for the two-year ban on land conversion, Mariano said, “time is of the essence” as more landowners could “take advantage” of the delay in the issuance of the EO. Mariano said the much-awaited draft EO has already undergone four revisions to ensure its acceptability to all stakeholders.

Under the law, the DAR is mandated to review applications for land conversion, according to Agrarian Reform Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Luis Pangulayan. Applications for land conversion, particularly prime agricultural lands, whether covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program or not, is subject to the DAR’s approval.

“Land conversions without the knowledge of the DAR may have been happening all over the country,” Pangulayan said.

Pangulayan added that Mariano has already issued an order to all DAR regional directors to monitor activities in prime agricultural lands—or lands that are irrigated or irrigable and file appropriate cases against the land owners if the conversions are without the approval of the DAR. “There is a Task Force on Land Conversion, which reviews land conversions nationwide. The DAR Secretary wants to know if these land conversions were approved by DAR or not, and whether the conditions of land conversions were met. If not, they will be reverted to agricultural land and consequently covered by the CARP,” he said.

The “sizable” area of 1,668 hectares covered by the applications filed before the DAR in the first quarter exceeds the combined area of 1,044 hectares that are contained in 36 applications filed in 2016. It also represents 17 percent of the total area of 9,974.54 hectares that are covered by 184 applications that the DAR has received since July 2003, Pangulayan added.

Since 1988, when the CARP was launched under the administration of the late President Corazon Aquino, 219,320 hectares have been slashed from its coverage, of which 98,939 hectares had been converted into nonagricultural uses while 120,381 hectares were exempted.

Mariano’s proposal for land-conversion moratorium is facing stiff opposition from President Duterte’s economic managers. The President’s economic team is against a total ban on land conversion, saying it will hinder growth and development.

Aside from imposing a moratorium, Mariano said there is also a need to review the current status of agricultural lands that have been converted into residential, commercial or industrial uses, particularly on “the matter of whether the holder of such grant was able to comply with the development period of the project, which is the basis for the conversion grant.”

Source: http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/government-must-ban-land-conversion-soon/