THE Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), through the National Agribusiness Venture Arrangements Evaluation Committee - Technical Working Group (NAEC-TWG), has stepped up efforts to resolve issues concerning the 4,300-hectare farms in Negros Occidental, formerly owned by business tycoon Eduardo Cojuangco Jr.
On March 14, nine members of NAEC-TWG arrived in the province to conduct the first DAR Central Office-led investigation on the petition filed by members of breakaway group ECJ Cloa Holders Association (Echa).
The latter’s petition seeks to revoke the joint venture agreement entered by ECJ Farmer Beneficiaries Multi-Purpose Cooperative (Efarbemco) and Cojuangco.
During the investigation, the group visited various landholdings and conduct interviews with farm workers of both groups, Echa, and Efarbemco.
The team also conducted another meeting with officers and investors of Efarbemco and Southern Negros Joint Venture Corporation (SNJVC), the other agreement entered into by the former.
“This is to give all involved groups the chance to air concerns, answer the issues raised by the petitioners, and present their evidences," DAR-Negros Occidental II said in a press statement.
It added that the investigation initiated by the TWG is provided under Department Administrative Order No. 9 Series of 2006. This on top of the investigation earlier conducted by the Provincial Task Force Agribusiness Venture Arrangements (AVA).
After the three-day investigation, the group is expected to submit the results to NAEC for the latter's review and evaluation. The committee will then submit its recommendation to the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC), a body that will decide whether or not to revoke the agreement.
DAR had earlier said that the 4,300-hectare farmland subjected to the petition is under a corporative scheme.
Under which, agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) during the Estrada administration entered into a joint venture with Cojuangco, who capitalized on the land voluntarily transferred to farmer-beneficiaries through the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (Carp).
DAR-Negros Island Region (NIR) records showed that these farms covered some 1,800 ARBs in seven local government units, including the cities of Himamaylan, La Carlota and Bago, and towns of Pontevedra, Hinigaran, La Castellana and Isabela.