DAR: Farmers can occupy farmlands under protest
Hopes are high that acquisition and distribution of land to agrarian reform beneficiaries could now move faster after Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano released Administrative Order No. 5, making the acquisition “compulsory” even with pending proceedings or cases.
In a press conference on Friday, Mariano announced that farmers could now have “actual physical possession and full control” of identified agrarian reform lands even before any application for conversion or protests against agrarian reform coverage on the land were decided by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) or the courts.
The order took effect 10 days after its publication on Aug. 23.
In the same conference, Assistant Secretary Joey Sumatra, director for the Bureau of Land Tenure Improvement, said farmers’ claims over a total of 19,000 hectares of agrarian reform lands had been stalled due to petitions against their coverage under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.
“We ask ourselves how many of the farmers who were awarded with their respective Cloas (certificates of land ownership awards) from decades ago are still in actual possession and full control of their lands today? Why are farmers still clamoring for lands?” Mariano asked.
Sumatra said most cases were stalled at the “advanced stages” of the “19 steps” in the land acquisition and distribution process, particularly at the 10th step or the issuance of a memorandum of valuation by the Land Bank of the Philippines.
“We cannot proceed with the transfer of title or the Cloa generation,” Sumatra said.
With Mariano’s new order, the DAR hopes to proceed with the acquisition and distribution process for over 5,000 hectares, affecting 4,500 beneficiaries, this 2017. The DAR’s total target for agrarian land distribution this year covers 50,000 ha.
Due to protests, the process can sometimes take at least five years, said lawyer Rolando S. Cua, officer-in-charge of the Regional Agrarian Reform Adjudicator.
Mariano’s order removes “self-restriction” by the DAR in such cases, Cua said.
A total of 4.8 million ha of land had already been distributed to about 2.8 million farmer beneficiaries from 1972 to June 2016.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.