MANILA, Philippines–Agrarian Secretary Virgilio Delos Reyes assured workers of his department that they would not be retrenched, laid off or forced to retire following a report that 9,000 employees could be given their walking papers in two years as part of a reorganization.
“Definitely, there is no mass lay-off at the Department of Agrarian Reform,” Delos Reyes said in a statement Tuesday.
The official was responding to the publication of an open letter by the Department of Agrarian Reform Employees Association (DAREA) protesting a purported plan by DAR to scale down the organization, affecting 9,000 of its 11,000 employees.
The employees fear that the massive restructuring will take place once the land distribution component of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER), which DAR is mandated to implement, expires on June 30, 2014.
But Delos Reyes said this was premature, as the post-2014 scenario was still being crafted by government agencies, including DAR, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the Land Registration Authority.
“The post-2014 [scenario] will definitely consider the interests of all stakeholders, particularly the welfare of the employees,” he said.
Delos Reyes, however, admitted that DAR had submitted to the Department of Budget and Management a “transition plan that would streamline the personnel complement of the DAR in preparation for the 2014 scenario.”
The transition plan, he said, was designed not to collapse the bureaucracy but to augment personnel in mission-critical areas while trimming down on non-critical positions in the run-up to 2014.
Non-critical positions refer to plantilla items that are filled up by personnel, but are no longer functional due to redundancy, modernization, and low land distribution balances.
“The trimming down under the proposed Transition Plan will not be through retrenchment but through an offer for voluntary retirement with a robust compensation package to those who want to leave under the enhanced Executive Order 366,” Delos Reyes said.
“It does not involve any forced retirement, retrenchment, or lay-offs,” he stressed.
During President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address in July, he committed his administration towards finishing the agrarian reform program before the end of his term in 2016.
The DAR reported to the President in February that it is possible to finish distributing the bulk of CARP-covered lands with areas above 10 hectares by June 2014–the legislated deadline of the land acquisition and distribution program of CARPER.
To address this, the DAR has committed to issue all notices of coverage to landowners by 2013.
“However, it is highly probable that there will be landholdings in the pipeline for acquisition but whose distribution will not be completed by June 30, 2014,” Delos Reyes said.
“These are the landholdings with legal cases and some of the small landholdings whose acquisition cannot be started before July 2013 because of CARPER law mandated phasing,” he said.