By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter
PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte has issued an executive order directing all government agencies to identify government-owned lands “devoted to or suitable for” agricultural use “for the purpose of eventual distribution to qualified beneficiaries.”
Mr. Duterte signed the Executive Order No. 75 on Feb. 15 citing the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law.
Section 1 of the EO states: “Subject to the limitations and conditions provided under applicable law, rules and issuances, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) shall acquire all lands devoted to or suitable for agriculture, which are owned by government agencies, and which are no longer actually, directly and exclusively used or necessary for the purpose for which they have been reserved or acquired, for the purpose of eventual distribution to qualified beneficiaries.”
Relevant government agencies are also directed to submit a list to the DAR, “indicating the location and area of the said lands, actual use and legal basis of ownership.”
The EO says further that all government agencies are directed to render “prompt and necessary assistance,” subject to applicable laws and regulations, “to fully implement the provisions of this Order.”
The EO takes effect 15 days after its publication in the Official Gazette or a newspaper of general circulation.
In his speech during the distribution of Certificates of Land Ownership Awards (CLOA) to Agrarian Reform beneficiaries in Kidapawan City in December last year, Mr. Duterte vowed to fast-track land distribution under his term.
He stressed that his administration intends to “dispose of almost all government lands” through land reform to address poverty and issues caused by land disputes. “If land reform is not implemented, this war is not going to end if people continue to be deprived of land,” Mr. Duterte said.
Also on Wednesday, DAR said a joint memorandum circular to fast-track the processing of applications for land conversion “will be submitted to the Cabinet early next month.”
“Our initial submission will be with the Cabinet on March 4 and after that, we will present it to the President,” Agrarian Reform Secretary John R. Castriciones was quoted as saying.
The agency said the inter-agency task force created by Mr. Duterte to address issues in the processing of land-use conversion applications “has been meeting several times to abide by the President’s mandate to streamline land conversion processes to 30 days from at least 24 months.”
“The application process for land use conversion from agricultural to residential, commercial or industrial uses, currently concerns the following agencies: Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Agriculture, Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board, National Housing Authority, and Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council,” the agency said.
“In pursuing this endeavor, it is foremost in our plans that each step is environmentally viable and socially feasible. It should also protect tillers’ rights and ensure food security,” Mr. Castriciones also said.