DAR director Villareal welcomes information officers

news national 2 pix 1 sept. 20 2017DAR Public Relations & Multi-media Director Leomides Villareal talks about the importance of bringing the services of the agency to its stakeholders through a comprehensive information campaign during the seminar-workshop on social media management for information officers in Negros Oriental.news national 2 pix 2 sept. 20 2017

Under the Duterte administration, agrarian reform and land distribution are included in the 10-point socio-economic agenda as highlighted in the Phil. Development Plan for 2017-2022.

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DAR information officers training

news national 1 pix 1 sept. 20 2017NEGROS ORIENTAL, Sept. 19 - Around 50 Regional and Provincial Information Officers of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) gather in El Dorado Resort in the municipality of Dauin for the Training on Social Media Management and Orientation on the Freedom of Information. Organized in partnership with the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), this activity is the last of two parts for the current quarter.

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UNDERSECRETARY ROSALINA BISTOYONG TAKES THE LEAD IN AGRARIAN REFORM, “IT IS MY HEARTFELT DESIRE TO CONTINUE WHERE KA PAENG LEFT OFF”

news national 1 pix 1 sept. 15 2017.jpgDAR Central employees, as well as representatives of DAR regional offices, waved goodbye to “Ka Paeng" Mariano with a heavy heart. 

Mariano was the 16th secretary of the DAR since its formation on September 10, 1971. He was one of the  earliest choices of the President to lead the agrarian reform department following the nomination of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) on May 31, 2016. The NDFP nomination of Mariano as DAR secretary was part of the peace negotiations with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP). 

Mariano was a three-term representative of the Anakapawis Partylist from 2004 to 2013. He also served as  the national chairperson of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP). 

In his speech during the turn-over rites held Wednesday, Mariano recounted his accomplishments in his 14 month-long period as secretary.  

Beginning with his first move for the DAR to maintain an “open door” policy, Mariano said “Kung inyo pong maaalala, ang una ko pong aksyong ginawa bilang kalihim ng DAR ay ang buksan ang nakapinid na mga pinto ng DAR para sa mga magsasaka [If you would remember, my first act of office as DAR secretary was to open the closed doors of this agency to the farmers].”

According to Mariano, his  “open-door” policy has facilitated 209 consultation-dialogues involving 12,292 farmers with DAR officials from July 2016 to June 2017.  He explained that this is more than double the 97 consultation dialogues conducted the year before and more than 12 times the number of farmers involved in the previous year.

Mariano’s ad interim appointment was rejected by the Commission on Appointments on September 6, Wednesday after hours of grueling  question-and-answer out forth by its members. He was bypassed twice on May 23, and July 22, 2017.  

On Friday, September 8, the Palace appointed Rosalina Bistoyong as officer-in-charge secretary of the DAR. Bistoyong, or Rose as fondly called by her friends and close associates, has been the agency’s undersecretary for support services since 2008. She rose from the ranks of government; a career executive spanning 28 years of public service. 

At present, Bistoyong  serves as the elected national president of the National Union of Career Executive Officers (NUSECO)—a national association of government executives from the different national and regional government agencies.

In the turn-over rites, Bistoyong said, “atin pong pagsisikapan na ituloy ang magandang gawain na sinimulan ng ating mahal na kalihim at makaabot sa mas malaking bilang ng mga magsasaka [We will try our best to continue with the advocacy started by our beloved Secretary (Mariano) to reach out to more and more numbers of farmers].” 

She also said that agrarian reform should not stop from awarding or distribution of lands but must continue with delivery of meaningful support services to farmers and agrarian reform beneficiaries. 

Bistoyong promised to expand the various credit programs so that farmers can have enough capital and make the land productive. “Atin pong bibigyan ng pansin ang pagpapalawig ng pautang upang magkaron ng tamang kapital at hindi i-aryendo ang lupa [We will give attention to debt extension, to give farmers sufficient time to pay for the land and so as not to force them to sell their agrarian reform lands],’ she explained. 

“Sa Negros at iba pang lalawigan, kabibigay lang ng lupa na-aryendo na agad dahil walang sapat na serbisyo [In Negros, and in other provinces, farmers were forced to sell thei lands under an ‘aryendo’ scheme because they did not have enough access to services,” Bistoyong said. 

The arriendo system is  an informal leasing arrangement of lands between agrarian reform beneficiaries and local government officials, relatives and military officers among others. It is considered illegal under agrarian reform law and DAR policies. 

Bistoyong also said that she will make an appeal to Land Bank of the Philippines to lower the interest rate of awarded lands which is currently at 8.5 percent to 4 percent. 

Bistoyong started her career in 1975 as research assistant for the Population Commission. She was promoted twice. In 1989. She transferred to the Office of the Northern Cultural Community and, from 1989 to 1998, served as its Regional Director, then promoted as Executive Director. 

She was appointed DAR undersecretary for support services from 2007 to 2010.  In November 2010, she was undersecretary for special programs and agrarian reform stakeholders relations until her reassignment back to being Undersecretary for Support Services in 2014. 

The DAR-Support Services Office (SSO) is the lead office which orchestrates, coordinates and provides overall policy directions in collaboration with concerned CARP Implementing Agencies (CARP-CIAs) relative to the delivery of support services to ARBs and their organizations. 

Bistoyong was also instrumental for the implementation of support services to former landowners whose landholdings were covered under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). 

Among Bistoyong’s outstanding accomplishments as Undersecretary for Support Services include the relaxed provision of credit under the Agrarian Production Credit Program (APCP) to ARBs and small holder farmers through their organizations. As of June 2017, the total loan progam amounted to almost PhP1.5B. 

Through this provision, according to Bistoyong, the loan program served a total of 54,440 ARBs and paved the way to access the micro-finance services to fund their livelihood and other farm activities.  “Ito po ang ating mahalagang gawain na ating gagampanan upang maging makabuluhan at lalong maging matagumpay ang ating paglilingkod sa ating mga magsasaka,” Bistoyong explained. 

Under the Support Services Office, Bistoyong has provided capacity development trainings to more than 239, 183 ARBs in Agrarian Reform Communities (ARCs)  and non-ARCs. Her office also facilitated  the increase in membership of 22,909 ARBs to DAR-assisted organizations. 

Bistoyong is the current Chairperson of the National Steering Committee on Gender and Development. Through her effort, it paved the way for the issuance of Administrative Order No. 1 mainstreaming gender and development in all programs and projects of the DAR. 

She said that “rural peasant women sector is one of most underserved sectors of the society that needs more attention especially in policy formulation.”

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PARC Secretariat spearheads consultation with ARBs on AVA contracts

news national 1 pix 1 sept. 14 2017CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (Sept. 14, 2017)—The Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) Secretariat spearheaded a two-day consultation, feedbacking and workshop with agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) involved in agri-business venture agreements (AVA) to inform and guide them in making sound decisions concerning their AVA with their investors.

PARC Secretariat Director James Arsenio Ponce said farmers often get embroiled in onerous AVAs because they were not properly guided on the laws and processes in negotiating their AVAs. 

“Often, farmers are abused and oppressed because they do not understand most of provisions contained in their AVAs. Their lack of understanding of the AVA [laws and regulations] always put them in an unfavorable and disadvantageous position,” explains Ponce.

“This consultation would empower ARBs and their cooperatives with the processes and guide them on what options to take in negotiating for their contracts with their investors. The workshop would also guide them in formulating action plans in addressing their AVA problems,” added Ponce.

During the workshop, participants composed of ARB cooperative officials discussed the updates, status, issues and concerns of their respective AVA contracts with AVA point persons, PARC Secretariat, DAR support services office and DAR Municipal Agrarian Reform Officers.

“Upon hearing their problems with their AVAs, we brainstormed on the challenges and came up with proposed recommendations and suggested solutions to each of their problems,” said Ponce.

According to Ponce, the consultation/feedbacking and workshop is being conducted after President Rodrigo Duterte, who is also the PARC Chairman, directed that all AVA contracts involving tenants and landholders must pass through DAR for evaluation and to determine if the AVAs are in violation of the 1987 Constitution as well as of agrarian reform laws, rules and regulations.

Acting on that directive, the PARC Secretariat, earlier this year conducted an ARB’s forum on the implementation of AVAs. Agrarian cooperatives were requested to submit their existing AVA contracts for review and evaluation by the DAR.news national 1 pix 2 sept. 14 2017 

“This consultation/feedbacking and workshop is the second activity of that directive. We presented to them the result of the evaluation of their AVAs submitted in the ARB’s forum. And now after lengthily discussing problems and suggesting possible solutions, they are now armed with enough knowledge to make sound decisions in their AVAs,” said Ponce.

The consultation cum workshop was held at the Pearlmont Hotel, Cagayan de Oro City on Sept. 13-14, 2017. (pinky roque)

Photo 1: PARC Secretariat Director James Arsenio Ponce. 

Photo 2: Ponce explaining the procedure of the workshop to farmer officials of agrarian cooperatives.

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Palace designates undersecretary Bistoyong as OIC-DAR Secretary

news national 1 pix 1 sept. 9 2017Malacanang yesterday designated Undersecretary Rosalina Bistoyong as Officer-In-Charge (OIC) of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), temporarily replacing farmers’ advocate Rafael Mariano whose nomination was rejected by the Commission on Appointments (CA) last September 6.

Bistoyong, a career executive service professional has been in government service for the past 28 years. She has been with DAR as undersecretary from 2010 up to the present.

Upon the instruction of President Rodrigo Duterte, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea designated Bistoyong to “ensure the effective delivery of public service,” as stated in the Malacanang memorandum.

A staunch supporter

For 28 years, Bistoyong has hands-on experience in supporting the agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) and indigenous peoples (IPs) in elevating their way of life.

As Undersecretary for the Department’s support services office, she has led and orchestrated numerous support services projects. She provides policy directions to CARP implementing agencies in delivering support services to ARBs.

She is credited in implementing support services for former landowners under CARP. “We also should help those landowners who gave up their land for our ARBs,” Bistoyong said.

One of her advocacy is addressing the pressing problems brought by climate change in rural communities. She took steps in strengthening, diversifying and enhancing agrarian reform projects in climate stricken areas. 

“We in the department continue to climate-proof our agrarian reform communities (ARCs) to help mitigate the bad effects of climate change. Also to help our farmers adapt to it by identifying the problems they face and creating options so that steps can be taken to solve them,” Bistoyong explained.

Among her outstanding achievements are: the provision of credit to ARBs and small-holder farmers though the Agrarian Production Credit Program (APCP), facilitated the increase in membership of more than 20,000 ARBs to DAR cooperatives, assisted more than 50,000 ARBs in accessing micro-finance services for their agri-business, provided capacity trainings in ARCs and non-ARCs. 

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