AN EXECUTIVE Order (EO) is set to be signed by President Rodrigo Duterte declaring a two-year moratorium for conversion of agricultural lands.
Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Rafael Mariano said Tuesday, September 13, it was among the highlights of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (Parc) meeting last Monday that was led by Duterte as chair of the council, the first time a president did so after 10 years.
Parc is the highest policy making and coordinating body in the implementation of the Agrarian Reform Programs.
"We are not sure yet when the President will sign the EO. But it will be primarily suspending for two years the processing and approval of all applications for land-use conversions of agricultural land to non-agricultural uses," Mariano said in a press briefing Tuesday in Malacañang as posted on PTV Facebook page.
Mariano added that the EO will be applied to all awarded lands under Republic Act 6657 as amended, Presidential Decree No. 27 and other agrarian reform laws.
Also, agricultural lands with notices of coverage issued by DAR, irrigated and irrigable lands, prime agricultural lands, retention areas of the land owners which are tenanted and agricultural lands with presence of agricultural activities that are being cultivated by the farmers individually or collectively are all covered in the EO implementation.
"Even before, illegal and premature conversions are prohibited," Mariano said, adding that conversion orders are issued by DAR.
Mariano said once the EO is signed, a task force will be formed to the status of the land-use conversion in the country and the DAR will call upon the support of other Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (Carp)-implementing agencies.
"With the EO, DAR will also issue rules and regulations for the implementation," Mariano said.
DAR is currently reviewing land conversion permits and land leasehold contracts.
Mariano also reported that from 1972 to June 2016, a total of 4.7 hectares of lands were already distributed to Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs).
"There is a need to fast track the validation and inventory to all the lands that has been distributed to ARBs and repair conversion orders. It is important to do field validation and inventory to ensure that the distributed lands are still in the possession of farmers," Mariano said.
Mariano underscored that during the meeting, the president fully supports the agrarian reform programs and wants that during his administration, lands will be distributed to qualified farmer beneficiaries.
Duterte also said that he wants DAR to take the lead in addressing issues and be responsive to the plights of the farmers.
Other important highlights during the Parc meeting were President Duterte favoring the return of coco levy to farmers, DAR to distribute 10,000 hectares of land donated by LandBank and DAR has denied an appeal by Hacienda Luisita's Tadeco and a petition for exemption from the Negros Occidental Provincial Government.
Mariano reiterated that in his term, their actions and decisions will be based on five thrusts and policy directions - protect farmers and ensure their security of tenure, promote farmers rights and welfare, contribute to rural development, ensure food security, and strengthening the DAR community.
Mariano said the administration's ultimate aims are to empower the nation's farmers, continuing open dialogue and consultation to all stakeholders especially the farmers and to attain food security.