DAR To Dialogue With Farmers Groups

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06052014 dar web news 1 pix 1The Department of Agrarian Reform today expressed its openness to dialogue with various farmers that are converging in Metro Manila to press their demands for the completion of agrarian reform. Some have set up camp outside the DAR office and will hold separate rallies to mark the anniversary of CARP.

The farmers are demanding for an amendment which will allow for the continuation of CARPER amid fears that agrarian reform goals will fall short when the law expires at the end of this month.

DAR Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Anthony Parungao said that they welcome the opportunity to discuss this issue with the farmers even as he sought to allay fears that agrarian reform will, itself, expire.

Parungao explained that the law allows support services for agrarian reform beneficiaries and the delivery of agrarian justice to proceed beyond June 30, 2014. What was given a deadline was the land acquisition and distribution aspect of the current agrarian reform program. And even in this aspect, Section 30 of R.A. No. 9700 or CARPER not only allows the DAR to acquire and distribute agricultural lands with pending cases as of June 30, 2014, it also allows the agrarian reform agency to continue to acquire and distribute agricultural lands as long as the process has been initiated prior to the said date. He noted that the land acquisition and distribution process is initiated through the issuance of a Notice of Coverage to the landowner, or the acceptance of the DAR of a landowners voluntary offer to sell.

06052014 dar web news 1 pix 2DAR Undersecretary for Field Operations Jose Grageda revealed that from 2012-2013, DAR was able to issue 56,399 NOCs for 520,529 hectares of land subject to compulsory acquisition. From January to May 20, 2014, DAR was able to issue 11,178 NOCs for 108,216 hectares of land. He added that there are only 14,085 NOCs left to be prepared or served covering 88,962 hectares. Grageda clarified that this figure is based on DAR’s current database and that there may be other lands needing NOCs that have not yet been included in the database particularly those that are still being reported by farmers’ groups and CSOs and are being verified.

Grageda admitted that the Department may not be able to issue NOCs to cover some of the remaining landholdings in places like Leyte where all records of the DAR, the DENR and the Registry of Deeds had been destroyed. Also, CSOs and farmers’ organizations are still reporting to DAR landholdings that they think should be covered by CARP and have not been issued NOCs. Documents still have to be researched and gathered in order for NOCs to be issued.

Both Parungao and Grageda said that while the DAR does not see a need for an amendment to extend CARPER, it does see the need to extend its authority to issue notices of coverage and accept voluntary offers to sell.

The DAR supports in principle the NOC Extension Bills that have been filed separately in the House of Representatives and in the Senate.

A series of dialogues have been scheduled from June 5 onwards between these farmers groups and DAR officials to take up this issue and other demands of these farmers’ organizations.