QUEZON CITY, Aug. 12 - Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano is recommending Pres. Rodrigo Duterte to issue an Executive Order, calling for a moratorium on the acceptance of application for land use conversion.
Mariano said the EO should also cover applications for exemption/exclusion of land from the coverage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) , other agrarian reform laws and programs.The moratorium will protect and ensure the rights of farmers. There is a state policy to preserve prime agricultural lands to ensure food security, he said.
The proposed moratorium was discussed during the recently concluded Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) Executive Committee meeting.
Mariano said he is seeking a passage of the law which will amend or repeal Section 20 of the Local Government Code which authorize municipal and city councils to reclassify agricultural lands into other uses.
In addition, the DAR will review/revoke conversion clearance issued if the landowners /applicants failed to completely implement development plan within five year period after the issuance of conversion order.
He stressed that conversion of lands to non-agricultural uses threatens the very foundation of the country’s food security program since land remains a vital cog in food production.
Mariano said a directive from the Office of the President, declaring a moratorium in the application for land conversion, could stop the bleeding in the country’s farming sector as the DAR appears to be standing only on one leg in deciding such application owing to the Department of Justice (DOJ) Opinion No. 44.
The DOJ Opinion states that the authority of the DAR to approve/disapprove land use conversion started only on the 15th of June 1988. This was reinforced in 1993 by a Supreme Court ruling, which provides that land converted to non-agricultural use prior to the effectivity of the Republic Act 6657 or the CARP law are outside the ambit of that law.
From July 2010 to May 2016, Mariano said a total of 142 applications for conversion of lands to non-agricultural uses were filed before the DAR, of which 101 applications, representing 2,496 hectares, were approved and 41 applications, covering 1,397 hectares, were denied.
If the trend continues, the government might, as well, kiss goodbye its food security program, Mariano stressed.
Technology, financing and marketing, three vital components in food production, would be of no use if the lands, the very source of food production were gone.
“Ano pa ang gagawin mo sa damo kung wala na ang kabayo”, Mariano figuratively asked. (DAR)