DAR says no order to convert land for steel mill
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—A proposed steel-rolling plant being opposed by residents and the Diocese of Malolos in Bulacan province cannot be built on a parcel of land that is still classified as agricultural in the town of Plaridel, an official of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) said.
Arnel Dizon, DAR director in Central Luzon, said that while the plant had applied for the conversion of the land to be able to build a steel factory, there was no order that converted the land classification from agricultural to industrial.
“As things stand now, all aforesaid orders are not yet final and executory,” Dizon said in a Jan. 27 letter replying to queries from the Inquirer.
On Jan. 24, 2014, a land conversion order was issued to Asian Land Strategies Corp. (ALSC) and Del Pilar Steel Inc.
On Feb. 3, 2014, a similar order was issued to Ma. Angela Celeridad and Plaridel Steel Inc. Another order was issued on Feb. 12, 2014, to Amando Buhain and New Carcar Manufacturing Inc.
The orders covered a total of 16 hectares of land in Barangay Parulan, an agricultural area.
A diocese’s copy of the order showed the entire parcel of land was owned by Buhain, former Plaridel mayor and president of ALSC.
The piece of property was sold to Del Pilar Steel Inc. for P434 million in 2013.
Using other names to apply for conversion is misrepresentation, said Eriberto Garcia, head of the group Kalikasang Dalisay para sa Mamamayan ng Plaridel, which filed a petition seeking to revoke the conversion orders.
The DAR’s Dizon said his office “treated distinctly and individually” the three applications. The applicants have been asked to explain, he said.
Garcia said the DAR regional office lacked jurisdiction over the applications because the lands should undergo the scrutiny of the agrarian reform secretary.
Dizon said a check by the DAR showed that the lots were “essentially contiguous or adjoining,” indicating one application was enough.
In support for residents fearing air pollution and reduced water supply, Bishop Jose Oliveros and 73 priests in the diocese have asked President Aquino to intervene by ordering the relocation of the project in areas hosting heavy industries.
The site, Garcia said, is nonnegotiable for conversion because the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) maintains a main irrigation system in the area.
NIA certifications and tax declarations submitted for an environmental impact assessment classified the lands as “agricultural” and “rice land-irrigated.”
The Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board certified these to be agricultural while the Department of Agriculture said these were commercial and industrial zones.
The municipal planning and development office said these were “proposed industrial zones at time of application for conversion.”
The Environmental Management Bureau has not yet issued the project an environmental compliance certificate. Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon