LA CASTELLANA -- The decision of the issues concerning the 4,300-hectare farms in Negros Occidental formerly owned by business tycoon Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. is already in its final stage and will be out soon, said Agrarian Reform Secretary Rosalina Bistoyong.
Bistoyong made the statement during the “Kampanya Kontra Ariendo” activity held at the covered court of La Castellana on Thursday.
Bistoyong said the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) Executive Committee, the body that will decide whether or not to revoke the agreement, is about to hear the case.
The National Agribusiness Venture Arrangements Evaluation Committee (NAEC), which she used to head, has already reviewed the petition for revocation filed by the ECJ Cloa Holders Association (Echa), she added.
“I cannot preempt the decision as well as the recommendations of the committee, but soon it will be out,” Bistoyong added.
The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has been monitoring and conducting an investigation to determine if there are violations in the corporative scheme of the farms, which cover about 1,800 agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs).
The ARBs are in seven local government units (LGUs), including the cities of Himamaylan, La Carlota and Bago, and towns of Pontevedra, Hinigaran, La Castellana and Isabela.
Under the corporative scheme, ARBs during the Estrada administration entered into a joint venture with Cojuangco, who capitalized on the land voluntarily transferred to farmer-beneficiaries through the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (Carp).
In March this year, members of the technical working group of NAEC conducted the investigation petition filed by members of breakaway group Echa.
The latter’s petition seeks to revoke the joint venture agreement entered by ECJ Farmer Beneficiaries Multi-Purpose Cooperative (Efarbemco) with Cojuangco.
During the investigation, the group visited various landholdings and conducted interviews with farm workers of both groups, Echa and Efarbemco.
The team also conducted another meeting with officers and investors of Efarbemco and Southern Negros Joint Venture Corporation (SNJVC), the other agreement entered into by the former.
The investigation conducted by NAEC’s technical working group, provided under Department Administrative Order No. 9 Series of 2006, is on top of the one conducted earlier by the Provincial Task Force Agribusiness Venture Arrangements.
Former Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano, during his visit in Bacolod City last year, said the DAR will make necessary actions on the matter as soon as the validation on alleged violations on the provisions of existing reform laws is completed.
The DAR said it received reports that portions of these lands previously planted with crops like mango and other fruits were converted to sugarcane fields and were managed by another lessee.
The investigation included identification of the perpetrators of illegal or premature conversion, who will have criminal liability, it added.
Published in the SunStar Bacolod newspaper on October 13, 2017.
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