THE Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR)-Negros Occidental welcomed Monday its new Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer (Paro) in a simple turnover ceremony at the Sugarland Hotel in Bacolod City.

Attended by some of the highest officers of DAR-Western Visayas Regional Office and city and municipal DAR offices here, former Capiz City, Aklan Paro Felix Servidad wholeheartedly accepted the responsibility from outgoing Paro Gideon Umadhay Jr. as Negros Occidental’s newest agrarian officer.

Umadhay will sit as Paro for Iloilo province effective tomorrow after a six-month stint with DAR-Negros Occidental.

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Servidad had been Municipal Agrarian Reform Office (Maro) from 1988 to 2001. He served as Carpo chief of Capiz City from 2001 to 2004 then as Carpo for Operations from 2004 to 2010 prior to his designation as Negros Occidental’s newest Paro.

In an interview, Servidad said his current position is quite challenging for him, knowing that Negros Occidental covers the largest scope on all agrarian programs in the whole of Western Visayas.

He also urged the full cooperation of all DAR officers in Negros Occidental for the success of agrarian projects set by the office.

Servidad said he is excited to work with DAR Negros Occidental, adding that he knows how the employees of DAR office here would perform.

“Employees of DAR-Negros Occidental are generally good workers,” he said.

DAR-Western Visayas Assistant Regional Director for Operations Felicidad Bañares, who introduced Servidad, said: “You will surely love PARO Felix as you loved Paro Boy (referring to Umadhay).”

“He is a well-respected and a spiritually-guided person, a man of integrity, and has a vision for DAR programs,” described Bañares of Servidad.

Also in attendance was Negros Occidental Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator (Parad) lawyer Isagani Cuello.

Meanhwile, Servidad said he is aware of the farmers’ plight for land reforms here, and said he is willing to listen and address the “legitimate concerns” of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (Carp) claimants.

He added there are at least 130,000 hectares of to-be-distributed lands are covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reform (Carper) that is up until 2014.

Meanwhile, National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) chairman Isidro Castillo yesterday said that their members are legitimate agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) and therefore has the right to claim whatever legal benefits due them.

Castillo earlier said that what they are fighting for is not what they know that is not for them, but for what is legally right for them.

Castillo denied reports that many of the NFSW members are not ARBs, adding that they are not making strikes for nothing “but to send wake up calls to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) that there are a lot of works to be done.”

For the ARBs that are waiting for a long time of what the government could assist them towards their struggle for land reforms and benefits, stressed Castillo.

On Monday, Servidad assured that he would listen to any legitimate concerns of the ARBs.

Servidad, who served DAR Capiz prior to his assignment here, said that part of his office priority is to hold a dialogue between farmers and landowners to address the issues on land acquisitions, which is rampant in Negros Occidental.