THE Palace on Wednesday said that it was about to complete the review of the draft executive order declaring a two-year moratorium for conversion of agricultural lands in the country.
“The fourth version is already with the Executive Secretary [Salvador Medialdea], and that is under study and should come out soon,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said barely five months after President Rodrigo Duterte first met with the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council.
“Agricultural lands with notices of coverage issued by the Department of Agrarian Reform, 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 also covered in the EO implementation,” Abella added.
The PARC is tasked to work on an EO that will place a moratorium on the processing and approval of all applications for all land-use conversion of agricultural lands for non-agricultural uses.
Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano earlier said the EO will be applied to all awarded lands under Republic Act 6657, Presidential Decree 27, and other agriculture reform laws but is facing staunch opposition from members of the economic cluster.
But on Wednesday, Mariano directed the department’s land use planning and conversion team and its regional offices in Central and Eastern Visayas to instead prioritize applications for land conversion necessary for the construction of resettlement areas for those affected by Super Typhoon “Yolanda.”
“Three years after the onslaught of Typhoon “Yolanda,” majority of the affected families are yet to be relocated in safe resettlement areas. Many relocations sites are yet to be developed. That’s why it is necessary to issue this order of extension. The DAR will prioritize these resettlement areas over other applications for land use conversion,” he said.
On Tuesday, Mariano issued an administrative order extending for another year the rules on land use conversion to expedite the process of resettlement and construction of houses for the victims of Typhoon “Yolanda” in the Central and Eastern Visayas regions.
The order also expanded the authority of the Department of Agrarian Reform’s regional directors and the regional center for land use, policy, planning and implementation to decide on land use applications and to process applications for the same, from five hectares to 15 hectares.
According to Mariano, a land use conversion clearance from the DAR is one of the requirements needed by the National Housing Authority to set up relocation sites for the victims.
“This AO would cover more lands and speed-up the processing of land use applications before it expires on March 5, 2018,” he said.
On Nov. 10, 2014, DAR issued AO No. 9 of 2014, containing special rules on applications for land use conversion for the construction of resettlement areas for Typhoon “Yolanda” victims.
During the President’s meeting with the PARC, the President said that he would need to review requests to certify the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill or House Bill No. 555, a ‘pet’ legislation of the Left as urgent, which advocated for “free land distribution.”
The President likewise ordered the strengthening of the PARC Secretariat per Committee’s Resolution No. 2713507, but its budgetary requirements will be studied by the Budget department, to be increased from 15 million to 30 million.