MANILA - The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) said the distribution of land to farmers will proceed even if the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER) law will expire on June 30.
The DAR also defended itself against criticisms it is sleeping on the job, explaining the acquisition of private agricultural lands for distribution is a very long and tedious process.
In a statement, DAR Undersecretary Anthony Parungao urged civil society groups that have been critical of DAR's work to look at Section 30 of RA 9700, which states that land acquisition and distribution may proceed for landholdings with pending proceedings even after the June 2014.
He noted there is a Department of Justice opinion which concurs with this view. He said the 2014 General Appropriations Act or the national budget likewise bolsters this view since there is still money appropriated for land distribution.
Several groups and leaders, led by Catholic bishops, earlier asked President Benigno Aquino III to extend the CARPER law until the end of his term. They said DAR has been too slow in finishing land distribution.
DAR Undersecretary for Field Operations Jose Grageda said the issuance of Notices of Coverage (NOCs) is moving. A Notice of Coverage initiates the compulsory acquisition and distribution of private agricultural lands, one of the modes of distribution under the CARPER.
“In 2012, the DAR was able to issue 25,841 NOCs covering 239,337 hectares for landholdings above 10 hectares. For 2013, another 18,460 NOCs were issued covering 210,655 hectares for these bigger lands. In April 2013, the DAR started issuing NOCs to small landholdings below 10 hectares. Some 12,098 NOCs covering 70,538 hectares for these small landholdings were issued in 2013. Thus, for 2013, some 30,558 NOCs were issued covering 281,192 hectares,” Grageda said.
He said 4,397 landholdings covering 43,676 hectares have yet to be issued NOCs.
In addition, there are 7,058 landholdings covering 69,339 hectares that have not been issued NOCs because they are problematic. Grageda said these are the lands for which DAR has encountered problems like missing titles, unreadable titles, chop-chop titles, etc.
He said all measures are being taken to address these problems.
Meanwhile, NOCs for around 80,000 hectares more, mostly for small landholdings, are also currently being prepared.
Parungao explained that more time is needed for the redistribution of private agricultural land. He said the titles have to be traced backward and forward to ensure that the owner on record is indeed the current owner.
Landholdings identified for distribution have to be projected in the land classification map to ensure the landholding in question does not, for example, encroach into timberlands.
He also said the technical description in the title has to be checked, and itles with defective technical description would need further research and/or correction.
In many cases, the titles are already missing or destroyed by floods or fire. Some of the titles have also been defaced.
Landowners may also question the acquisition of their land before the courts, he said.
“We have always been upfront with the many stakeholders of land reform as regards the situation obtaining on the ground so that we can work together in distributing the remaining land. They are familiar with the situation the DAR finds itself in because we’ve communicated this several times over,” he said.