Mariano sounds alarm over rampant land conversion

news national 1 pix 1 april 4 2017AGRARIAN Reform Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano has sounded the alarm over rampant and unchecked conversions of agricultural lands even as he expressed hope for the immediate issuance of an executive order that would put to a halt the application for land conversion.

Mariano said the extensive conversions of prime agricultural lands, as well as, irrigated or irrigable lands compromises the country’s food security as it tends to decrease landholdings dedicated for food production.

For the first three months alone this year, Mariano said, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has already received 13 applications, covering combined area of 1,668 hectares, nearly eight times more than the combined 215.44 hectares that are covered by 13 applications filed in the same period last year.

“We are speaking here only of the first three months of 2017,” the DAR chief stressed. He added: “The more land diverted to non-agricultural use, the lesser agricultural production there will be,” which may lead to the rising cost of commodities due to limited supply to the market.

Mariano said the sizeable area of 1,668 hectares is even far more than the combined area of 1,044 hectares that are contained in 36 applications filed the whole of 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, he added.

Mariano said that “time is of the essence” as he expects more landowners, taking advantage of the delay in the issuance by the Office of the President of the proposed two-year moratorium order for land conversion, to file application for land conversion.

Mariano also stressed the 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 or not the holder of such grant was able to comply with the development period of the project, which is the basis for the conversion grant.”

He said that the much-awaited draft executive order has already gone four upgradings to ensure its acceptability to all major stakeholders.

Since 1988 when the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (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 to non-agricultural uses and 120,381 hectares exempted.

At the maximum limit of three hectares for each beneficiary, 73,107 landless farmers would have benefited had this sizeable area been distributed, with the number getting doubled or even tripled, taking into account the current trend where each beneficiary was lucky enough to receive a hectare or two of farmlots.

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