MANILA - A two-year moratorium on the conversion of agricultural lands is being proposed by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) after getting a go signal from President Rodrigo Duterte, a top official said Tuesday.
The Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) is working on an executive order (EO) that will place a moratorium "on the processing and approval of all applications for all land-use conversion of agricultural lands for non-agricultural uses," Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano said.
If implemented, the moratorium will apply to all awarded lands under Republic Act 6657, Presidential Decree 27 and other agriculture reform laws.
These include agricultural lands with notices of coverage issued by DAR, irrigated and irrigable lands, prime agricultural lands, retention areas of land owners which are tenanted, and agricultural lands with presence of agricultural activity or cultivated by farmers individually or collectively.
Under the proposed EO, a task force will be created to assess the status of land use conversion in the country, and will also give DAR the power to call upon the support of other implementing agencies.
"There is a state policy to preserve agricultural lands to ensure food security," he said.
A policy review and formulation committee will also look into existing administrative orders issued by the department under previous administrations.
"Currently, DAR's role is only to issue a notice to proceed. We want to change that and give DAR a bigger role in ensuring that farmers are given what they are due," Mariano said.
Mariano said the President has given a directive to distribute lands to qualified farmer beneficiaries, and wants PARC to be more responsive by imposing timelines.
Duterte also mentioned the need to return coco levy funds to farmers and instructed Land Bank to provide more assistance to agrarian reform beneficiaries.