1,300 titles for Luisita land sent to deeds office

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CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) on Tuesday registered an initial 1,300 certificates of land ownership award (Cloas) with the Registry of Deeds  in Tarlac province to produce the first set of individual titles to over 4,099 hectares for land reform beneficiaries in Hacienda Luisita.

“The intention is to distribute the Cloa to the first batch by September,” Anthony Parungao, agrarian reform undersecretary for legal affairs, told the Inquirer by telephone on Tuesday.

Parungao said the registration would be quick because the DAR provincial office has generated the Cloas from 51 titles now in the name of the government. The 51 titles originated from three titles previously owned by Tarlac Development Corp. of the Cojuangco family.

Parungao said the generation of Cloas has been fast as majority of the qualified beneficiaries have signed their lot allocation certificates (LACs) and the application to purchase and farmer’s undertaking (APFU).

He said at least 600 of 6,212 beneficiaries have not signed the APFU as of Tuesday. In signing the document, he said a farmer commits to pay for the land, till it and comply with agrarian reform laws.

Land should be free

Alyansa ng Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) has asked the Supreme Court to void the LACs and APFU, saying these need not be signed because the land should be given free and that the farm workers have already paid it through their labor since 1989 when agrarian reform was implemented through a stock distribution program.

Parungao said that as of

Aug. 23, the Office of the Solicitor General has not received from the Supreme Court a notice requiring the DAR to comment on Ambala’s petition.

Also in September, the DAR will start installing the “mojon” (reference of land boundaries) so farmers can identify the boundary of their lands measuring 6,600 square meters each. Worth between P60,000 and P70,000, these are to be paid in 30 years.

‘Best rebuttal’

Parungao said the distribution of the titles in September is the “best rebuttal” to claims that President Aquino is standing in the way of agrarian reform over the family’s 6,443-ha estate.

The Presidential Agrarian Reform Council in 1989 and 2005 placed under compulsory coverage only 4,915 ha of Hacienda Luisita. The area has shrunk to 4,099 ha, with the Supreme Court ordering the exclusion of 500 ha that were sold to Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. and 80.51 ha sold for a section of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx). The remainder, some 500 ha, is used for roads, firebreaks and canals, the DAR said in a report to the Supreme Court.

The 6,212 qualified beneficiaries cannot yet get the P1.3 billion as shares from the sale of 580.51 ha until the high court has given its guidance on the selection of an independent auditor.

Despite the new legal row, the DAR will next provide support services to the beneficiaries so they can make the land productive, Parungao said.

“In fairness to the President, the only statement he has said is that we follow what the law says and to make sure that the people will not be neglected,” Parungao said. Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon

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