BAGUIO CITY, Philippines—There are too many agencies in the country that issue land titles, so the government has been studying plans for their merger or reorganization to speed up rural development programs like the agrarian reform, Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes said last week.
De los Reyes, in a news conference here on June 19, said the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) had been slow because of the “mess in land administration management,” where competing agencies like the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) occasionally race with the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in issuing land titles.
In many cases, multiple titles tend to overlap, he said, resulting in land disputes.
In other instances, the volume of titles needing documentation or recording in the provinces has grown so much that the task has become unmanageable, De los Reyes said. He said this situation left gaps in land registration records when some of these titles were lost or destroyed.
The gaps have delayed the processing of private lands meant for agrarian reform.
The problem will not stop the processing of agrarian lands, but “it will just take more time,” he said.
Like the DAR, four other agencies also offer overlapping services for the country’s agriculture sector, from credit to bankrolling their seed programs, “which have been hard to coordinate,” De los Reyes said.
“We really have a problem with the way we run our rural development sector. [President Aquino] recognizes that,” he said.
De los Reyes said the President, on Nov. 19, 2012, directed all these agencies to submit reform proposals to correct the government’s land management crisis.
Malacañang, he said, also directed the agencies with land-titling powers to try to solve land disputes. The agencies have already submitted their suggestions but a quick resolution is unlikely at the moment, he added.
“We can’t have a disjointed land management system,” De los Reyes said.
Malacañang is dealing with three agencies (DENR, DAR and NCIP) that issue land titles, five agencies that oversee agriculture in various degrees (DAR, DENR, Department of Agriculture, Department of Trade and Industry, and Cooperative Development Authority), and two agencies that approve land surveys (DENR and the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board), he said.
“It’s like you are playing sungka (an indigenous game where victory is gauged by the number of shells one collects when moving from the pockets or holes of a board),” De los Reyes said.
Malacañang may either merge these agencies or provide a uniform land-titling standard, but the process may not be completed by 2016, he said.
“There [may] be a merger of functions [but] whether it leads to the abolition of offices or the creation of new ones are [options that are] still up in the air. That’s what stage we are in now,” he said.
If Malacañang fails to correct the problems before the end of Mr. Aquino’s term, it would leave behind possible solutions for the next administration to take up when it fixes the land management problems, he added.
The land reform process would still need a solution after the Aquino administration, he said, because “much like the Mayan calendar,” agrarian reform would not be ending at the end of Mr. Aquino’s term in 2016.
The CARP law was extended until 2016 by Republic Act No. 9700, but the Constitution mandates agrarian reform as a continuing government service so the DAR may exist beyond the span of the two laws, De los Reyes said.
That means the agency will continue dealing with overlapping claims with ancestral land titles issued by the NCIP and with forest lands under the protection of the DENR.
“The problem is huge. There are many overlaps of CADTs (certificates of ancestral domain title issued by the NCIP) and Cloas (certificates of land ownership award issued by the DAR). We are trying to find solutions to that,” he said.
In Nueva Ecija province, Bishop Roberto Mallari of the Diocese of San Jose City urged the government to continue land reform, saying the government still has unfinished business.
“I call on everyone to pray collectively to open the hearts of those in the government to do something to help [those] whose only hope is God,” Mallari said in his pastoral letter read during Masses in the diocese on Sunday.
Mallari said 7,200 hectares of land in Guimba, Cuyapo, Nampicuan and Carranglan towns still faced agrarian reform and distribution problems.
“The government already spent P342 billion since 1988 to distribute 5.6 million ha of land but 1.2 million ha still remained undistributed,” Mallari said, citing a DAR report. With a report from Anselmo Roque, Inquirer Central Luzon