DAR scores farmers' group on outdated list

OIC-Undersecretary for Field Operations Atty. Elmer Distor. (File photo)

The implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program or CARP is in full swing under the Second Phase of Agrarian Reform of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) belies the claims made by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) that there is no genuine Agrarian Reform Program under the current administration. The KMP’s statement that landlords and capitalists continue to hold sway over vast tracts of agricultural lands is not supported by evidence based on the records of the DAR.

The landholdings mentioned by the KMP are not owned by capitalists or landlords. According to Undersecretary for Field Operations Atty. Elmer Distor, those agricultural lands, which have been issued the requisite Notices of Coverage (NOCs) by the DAR, are already covered with Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOAs) and have been turned over to qualified Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries or ARBs. The landholdings in the KMP list have already been covered by the DAR as early as the 1990s.

Among those landholdings in the list of KMP which have been covered under CARP are the former haciendas in Sta Isabel, Isabela and Tarlac (25,046 hectares as early as 1983), the former haciendas in Negros Occidental (1,897 hectares as early as 1997), the defunct

Hacienda Reyes in Quezon Province (3,290 hectares), the former Hacienda Madrigal in Cagayan Valley (12,000 hectares have been covered under CARP, but with a pending boundary dispute), the former Hacienda Looc in Batangas (9,510 hectares, but with a pending exemption case before the Supreme Court), and the former Yulo landholdings (47,100 hectares in 2021).

Undersecretary Distor also bared that the former haciendas owned by the Araneta family in Isabela-Teresa have already been covered under the CARP, consisting of 6,934 hectares, except those areas which were exempted from CARP in 2002. The former Hacienda Matias in Quezon has been covered under the CARP, involving at least 2,215 hectares in 2016. An additional area of 19.94 hectares is undergoing documentation. The Matias family has been cooperating with the DAR. The landholdings also located in Quezon, which formed Hacienda Uy, have been covered under CARP and distributed to ARBs, covering a total area of 2,718 hectares.

The process of covering the former Hacienda Roxas in Batangas is ongoing. The re-documentation and identification of beneficiaries are under process. This has a total of 4,783 hectares.

The haciendas, which were formerly owned by the Zulueta Family in Isabela, have already been CARP covered beginning in 1985. The subsequent coverage under CARP was completed in 1990, 2002, and 2020. A total area of 4,538 hectares is under CARP.

The other landholdings mentioned by the KMP are not part of the land acquisition and distribution (LAD) balance of the DAR and cannot be covered under CARP. Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Luis Meinrado C. Pañgulayan clarified that those landholdings mentioned by the KMP were taken outside the coverage of the CARP mainly due to exemption or exclusion Orders issued by previous administrations in the 1990s and the early part of the 2000s. On the other hand, Undersecretary Distor observed that some of the landholdings in the KMP list have no specific locations.

Secretary Brother John Castriciones emphasizes that the necessary policies to ensure the fulfillment of the Agrarian Reform mandate have only been made possible under the Duterte Administration.

The President issued Executive Order (E.O.) No 75 in 2019 empowering the DAR to reacquire unused government-owned agricultural lands. The DAR is parcelizing collective CLOAs to ensure that all beneficiaries will have individual titles. Agricultural lands are being awarded to graduates of Degrees in Agriculture. The Agrarian Legal Sector was able to fulfill the goals of its Zero Backlog Campaign. The payment of the monthly amortization of ARBs has been placed on hold, and the six percent (6%) annual interest has been credited to the principal under the Bayanihan Law 2. Housing to ARBs is being provided through an expanded support program of the DAR under the Balai Program. The DAR issued Administrative Order (A.O.) No. 3, Series of 2021 to ensure the criminal prosecution of illegal conversion. A total of 229, 289 hectares of agricultural lands have been distributed by the DAR in the current administration despite the absence of the NOC.

Secretary Castriciones states that it cannot be overemphasized that CARP implementation shall continue even after the completion of the acquisition and distribution of covered lands. It shall be in the areas of agrarian justice delivery, support operations, and tenure security.