PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte has ordered the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to convert “all collective land titles” to individual certificates of land ownership awards (CLOA), according to Agrarian Reform Secretary John R. Castriciones.

In a statement posted on its website Tuesday, DAR said it has issued “some 2.251 million hectares” covered by collective CLOAs of agricultural land, 76% of which was awarded to agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) “who were not actually engaged in collective farming.”

Mr. Castriciones said that this has “affected farmer’s individual property rights” and discouraged them “from making long-term improvements on the land.”

“I don’t blame them,” he added, noting that it is “hard” for those who own part of a collective CLOA “to make decisions” on what crops to plant and how to plan their farms.

“Why? Because you have to consult other farmers and what the majority wants will prevail,” he said.

He added: “This is also the reason why the President wants all collective land titles issued by the Department transformed to individual titles.”

He said separate CLOAs for each farmer-beneficiary would be better “because it enables them to have a clear and defined ownership of parcels of land.”

Mr. Duterte’s directive to break up the collective titles was issued during the 36th Cabinet Meeting held at the Palace last month, according to the DAR.

The President also instructed the department to form a task force that will be responsible for the creation of a program for the “distribution of individual CLOAs from the collective titles and remaining workable balance of agricultural land.”

Mr. Castriciones said, “To accomplish the President’s directive, we have created a separate office that will facilitate the ‘parcelization’ of collective CLOAs into individual CLOAs.”

He added that the office of the Agrarian Reform Title Stabilization (ARTS), which is headed by Undersecretary David D. Erro, will be “forming teams and provide a timeline and guidelines in the implementation” of Mr. Duterte’s order.

DAR added that the President, during the meeting, acknowledged that the conduct of a survey “would require financing.”

“As such, the President said that he will exert all efforts to respond to the required funding for the hiring of surveyors and survey equipment,” the department said, adding that Mr. Duterte has instructed the Secretary of the Department of Finance to “raise funds to support” its program. — Arjay L. Balinbin