Published on February 03, 2014, PhilStar.com:

Written by Dennis Carcamo

MANILA, Philippines -The Department of Agrarian Reform on Monday allayed fears that the agency’s land distribution scheme to farmer beneficiaries will end with the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms law, which expires in June this year.

In a statement, the DAR reassured various quarters in civil society, including some bishops who wrote President Benigno Aquino III to ask for his support for an extension of the CARPER law until the end of his term in 2016.

The bishops alleged that the slow land distribution by the DAR raises fears that the remaining balance of land would not be distributed to the farmers within the timeframe set by the CARPER law.

DAR Undersecretary Anthony Paruñgao said that the bishops may want 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 added that there is a Department of Justice opinion which concurs with the view while the 2014 General Appropriations Act bolsters this view.

Paruñgao noted that there are legislative initiatives for CARP extension that will remove any and all doubts on the legal basis land acquisition and distribution after June 30, 2014.

As regards the perceived ‘sluggishness’ of the distribution of land, he said that DAR has communicated to the various stakeholders, the bishops included, on several occasions the state of the land acquisition and distribution balance.

To date, the DAR is primarily distributing private agricultural land, most of which have to be acquired through compulsory acquisition, Paruñgao said.

D54AR Undersecretary for Field Operations, Jose Grageda, assured the bishops that the issuance of Notices of Coverage for landholdings to be acquired under compulsory acquisition is proceeding apace.

A Notice of Coverage initiates the compulsory acquisition and distribution of private agricultural lands and is considered by DAR as one such proceedings referred to by CARPER.

DAR had begun fast-tracking the preliminary work leading to the issuance of NOCs in 2012 leading in a substantial increase in NOCs issued to landholdings above 10 hectares.

But because of limitations placed by RA 9700, NOCs for small landholdings 10 hectares and below began to be issued only starting April 2013, Grageda said.

“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,” he said.