By Rio N. Araja
Agrarian Reform Secretary Conrado Estrella III has directed the immediate distribution of 4,000 hectares out of the 6,667-hectare Camp Keithley Military Reservation in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur “to give justice to the legitimate birthright of the Bangsamoro people over their ancestral lands.”
The distribution of idle government-owned lands, like in Marawi, is a top priority in accordance with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s directive under Executive Order No. 75 of 2019, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) said.
The executive order seeks to distribute all idle government lands to qualified beneficiaries to make them productive and boost the government’s food self-sufficiency program.
Estrella said land surveys were still ongoing with over 200 hectares of the identified coverable area already set for distribution anytime this year.
“It is only proper to indemnify the rightful claimants by distributing this military reservation area to correct the historical injustices committed against them in the past,” he said.
To ensure the smooth and orderly distribution of the vast military camp, he tapped Amihilda Sangcopan as Undersecretary for Mindanao Affairs and Rural Development, to head the newly created Task Force Camp Keithley Military Reservation Executive Committee and to oversee the perimeter surveying, procurement activities, validation, documentation, and approval of subdivision plans.
Camp Keithley was formerly a military base of the United States of America.
It was built at the start of the Philippine-American War in the early 20th century.
Then President Elpidio Quirino converted it into a military reservation area on Dec. 23, 1953 by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 453.