DAR Says Land Acquisition And Distribution To Continue Beyond June 2014

on .
dar web news pix 1 feb. 3 2014 400The Department of Agrarian Reform today allayed fears that the program to distribute land to landless peasants will end with the CARPER law, which expires on June 2014.

In a statement, the DAR reassured various quarters in civil society, including some bishops who wrote President Aquino to ask for his support for an extension of the CARPER law until the end of his term in 2016.

The bishops allege that the sluggishness of land distribution by the present DAR administration raised fears that the remaining balance of land would not be distributed to the farmers within the timeframe set by the CARPER law.

DAR Undersecretary Anthony Paruñgao said that the bishops may want to look at Section 30 of RA 9700 which states that land acquisition and distribution may proceed for landholdings with pending proceedings even after the June 2014. He added that there is a DOJ opinion which concurs with this view. Furthermore, the 2014 General Appropriations Act bolsters this view.

In connection with this, DAR Undersecretary for Field Operations, Jose Grageda, assured the bishops that the issuance of Notices of Coverage (NOCs) for landholdings to be acquired under Compulsory Acquisition is proceeding apace. A Notice of Coverage initiates the compulsory acquisition and distribution of private agricultural lands and is considered by DAR as one such proceedings referred to by CARPER. DAR had begun fast-tracking the preliminary work leading to the issuance of NOCs in 2012 leading in a substantial increase in NOCs issued to landholdings above 10 hectares. But because of limitations placed by RA 9700, NOCs for small landholdings 10 hectares and below began to be issued only starting April 2013.

“In 2012, the DAR was able to issue 25,841 NOCs covering 239,337 hectares for landholdings above 10 hectares. For 2013, another 18,460 NOCs were issued covering 210,655 hectares for these bigger lands. In April 2013, the DAR started issuing NOCs to small landholdings below 10 hectares. Some 12,098 NOCs covering 70,538 hectares for these small landholdings were issued in 2013. Thus, for 2013, some 30,558 NOCs were issued covering 281,192 hectares”, Grageda said.

Among those not yet issued NOCs are some 4,397 landholdings covering 43,676 hectares for which DAR has already requested certified true copies of title from the Land Registration Authority. In addition, there are 7,058 landholdings covering 69,339 hectares which are problematic and thus, no NOC has yet been issued. These are the lands for which DAR has encountered problems like missing titles, unreadable titles, chop-chop titles, etc. Grageda gave the assurance that all measures are being taken to address these problems. NOCs for around 80,000 hectares more, mostly for the small landholdings, are currently being prepared.

Grageda also noted NOCs already issued can be found in the DAR website. Anybody can check whether a particular landholding has been issued an NOC. In this same web page, anybody can report a landholding that he/she thinks should be covered by CARP. Grageda also said that the DAR has asked for the assistance and support of the various civil society organizations in identifying CARPable lands so that they can be served NOCs. So far, more than a thousand landholdings covering about 20,000 hectares have been added for compulsory acquisition.dar web news pix 2 feb. 3 2014 400

Undersecretary Paruñgao also noted that there are legislative initiatives for CARP extension that will remove any and all doubts on the legal basis land acquisition and distribution after June 30, 2014.

As regards the perceived ‘sluggishness’ of the distribution of land, Paruñgao said that they have communicated to the various stakeholders, the bishops included, on several occasions the state of the land acquisition and distribution balance (LAD). He said that presently the DAR is primarily distributing private agricultural land, most of which have to be acquired through compulsory acquisition.

He added that distributing private agricultural lands requires more time and is more contentious. Titles of private lands have to be procured. These titles have to be traced backward or forward to ensure that the owner on record is indeed the current owner. Landholdings identified for distribution has to be projected in the land classification map to ensure the landholding in question does not, for example, encroach into timberlands.

The technical description in the title has to be checked; titles with defective technical description would need further research and/or correction. In a significant number of cases, titles can turn up missing or the title or destroyed by floods or fire; some titles have been defaced making it unreadable. Again these would need further research and in a number of instances, have to be reconstituted by the courts.

Landowners can object to CARP coverage and can file petitions for exemption or exclusion. In the process of identifying beneficiaries, conflicts among potential beneficiaries may arise necessitating inclusion/exclusion proceedings.

He said that these factors impose themselves on land acquisition and distribution such that they impede the process of distributing land as the Department has had to undertake other steps in order to proceed with its mandate.

Paruñgao added that in the middle of all these, the DAR’s Rationalization Plan was implemented.

“The rationalization plan that was put in effect hopes to address precisely these problems and make the Department more able to take on its tasks of distributing private agricultural land”, Parungao said.

“We have always been upfront with the many stakeholders of land reform as regards the situation obtaining on the ground so that we can work together in distributing the remaining land. They are familiar with the situation the DAR finds itself in because we’ve communicated this several times over” said Paruñgao.