THE long wait seems over, at least, for 2,110 farmers, who have been dreaming to own the 3,878 hectares of reservation area of the University of Southern Mindanao (USM), or the Cotabato Foundation College of Science and Technology (CFCST), which they and their ancestors have been tilling for over 60 years.
DAR Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano has vowed to distribute to them under his Genuine Agrarian Reform Program the said property, which is geographically located in seven barangays of the municipality of Arakan, Cotabato. These barangays are: Badiangon, Doroluman, Ilustre, Makalangot, Malibatuan, Meocan and Naje.
The late President Corazon Aquino issued in 1990 Executive Order 407, as amended by EO 448, mandating DAR to accelerate the transfer/distribution of lands suitable for agriculture that are owned/reserved for state colleges and universities.
“The DAR stands firm that the thousands of hectares of unused landholding proclaimed for the use of, or titled to the USM of the CFCST should be awarded to the farmers who are actually and directly cultivating them,” Mariano stressed.
In a statement issued last February 9, he said: “The DAR sees no legal impediment to prevent the USM or the CFCST from turning over to the Department portions of its landholding that are no longer being actually, directly and exclusively used or necessary for the purpose for which it was reserved.”
Mariano said the DAR would immediately commence the segregation of the 3,878 hectares of the said reservation area, in the absence of any legal impediments, and distribute the same to the qualified beneficiaries.
The identified landholding has been placed under the coverage of the CARP since July 28, 2008 when the DAR issued a notice of coverage to the management of the USM or CFCST.
Officials of the USM or the CFCST, however, could not agree on who among them has the authority to sign the Deeds of Transfer, thus, keeping the DAR from acquiring and distributing it.
Actually, the total reservation area of the USM or the CFCST is 5,018.37 hectares. Only 1,140.6842 hectares, however, have been utilized. These are broken down as follows: 1,000 hectares for CFCST as mandated by Republic Act 3801; 131.48 hectares for USM-AVAS; 5.45 hectares for the Malibatuan High School; and 3.75 hectares for the Malibatuan Elementary School.
The DAR, however, discovered during its on-going validation that 405 farmers are currently cultivating 605.315 hectares of the P1,000-hectare reserved for the CFCST, formerly the Children Education Foundation Village (CEFV), the original recipient of the RA 3801 that was enacted in 1963. The said group of farmers claimed that their elders have been cultivating some parcels of the area even before the passage of the said law.
The late President Carlos Garcia signed Presidential Proclamation No. 428, giving USM’s predecessor, the Mindanao Institute of Technology, 7,200 hectares of reservation area.
The late President Ferdinand Marcos signed Presidential Decree 1312, converting the MIT and its operations under the USM, with threefold functions: instruction, research and extension.
In 1990, however, the late President Corazon Aquino issued Executive Order 407, as amended by EO 448, mandating DAR to accelerate the transfer/distribution of lands suitable for agriculture that are owned/reserved for state colleges and universities.
Still, the reservation area of the USM or the CFCST has not been transferred to the DAR due to persistent question on to whom the authority to sign the Deeds of Transfer resides.
The question has lingered on despite the Department of Justice (DOJ) issuing Opinion No. 13, series of 2012, concurring with the view of the DAR that there is no legal impediment that prevents USM from turning over to the DAR portions of its reservation area.
The DAR’s view states that: “The lands or some of its portions that are reserved by virtue of presidential proclamation for specific public uses shall be segregated from the reservation and transferred to the DAR for distribution under CARP to qualified beneficiaries if the two conditions are present:
a)That the lands or portions thereof are suitable for agriculture; and,
b)That the same is determined by the DAR, in coordination with concerned government agencies or instrumentalities, as no longer actually, directly and exclusively or necessary for the purpose for which they have been reserved.”
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