‘Probe delay in awarding land titles’

Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriciones on Friday vowed to investigate the delay in the awarding of certificates of land ownership award to farmer-beneficiaries in some parts of Luzon.

He ordered the creation of a task force to look into the reported irregularities in a regional office of the Department of Agrarian Reform.

Pyra Lucas, Volunteer Against Crime and Corruption regional head, accompanied the farmers from Tarlac and Pampanga, to bring up the issue of anomalies in the regional office over the delayed awarding of the farmers’ land titles for a number of years.

The landholdings in conflict were in Tarlac’s barangay Malonzo in Bamban and Barangay Concepcion, and Pampanga’s Barangay Gutad in Florida and Clark in Cabcom.

Castriciones ordered the task group to come up with immediate resolutions into the matter.

“While we are investigating this case, we will re-survey the problematic lands, process your land titles and attend to your other concerns so that there will be no wasted time,” he promised.

Castriciones on Thursday met with the concerned farmers in a dialogue at the department’s central office in Quezon City.

Undersecretary for field operations Karlo Bello, Undersecretary for legal affairs Luis Pangulayan, regional director Homer Tobias and other agrarian reform officials took part in the dialogue.

Castriciones gave the farmers and VACC the assurance that the Duterte administration would exhaust its resources to resolve all land problems, including those from the past administrations. (RIO)

Meanwhile, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said that President Rodrigo Duterte still has full trust in Castriciones even after the chief executive expressed his frustration over the delayed processing of land conversion documents at the agency.

In several past speeches, the president had said that he may fire at least two DAR executives over the delay which he said was even attended by corruption.

“I believe DAR Secretary Castriciones still enjoys the trust and confidence of the President. In fact the President said something to that effect,” Nograles said.

On Thursday, Duterte walked out of the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday when he learned that it takes 25 years for an application process to be fully accomplished at the National Economic Development Authority and two-processing of conversion cases at the DAR.

The President then repeatedly threatened to fire and file charges against the officials allegedly involved in the delay.

“Though no fault of anybody, I discovered very late that there are some applications which have been pending in NEDA [National Economic and Development Authority] for 25 years,” Duterte said in a speech in Malacañang on Thursday.

“So ‘yon namang sa [land] conversion, it took them about two years? And two years that includes verily corruption,” he added.

Nograles said Castriciones had told the Cabinet that there was an “urgent need” to streamline the current process for land conversion to address pending applications and to expedite the approval and/or disapproval of new applications.

Nograles added that several agencies will draft a joint memorandum circular aimed at streamlining the process of approval/disapproval of land conversion applications, from 24 to 36 months, to 30 days.

These agencies include the DAR, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Energy, Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, National Housing Authority, Land Registration Authority, Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board and the Social Housing Finance Corporation.

“This memorandum circular will be finalized and presented to the President for his approval within 30 days or on or before the next Cabinet meeting,” Nograles said.

At least 140 conversion cases remain pending with the agrarian reform department as of 2018, according to Nograles.

“At present, classification and conversion of land from agriculture to other uses are handled by the DA and DAR, respectively, using criteria and regulations specific to these departments. Then there’s the DENR which issues environmental clearances,” Nograles said on January 30.

“The challenge is to get everyone on the same page so that we can identify the choke points in the process and handle these appropriately,” he added.

Topics: Department of Agrarian Reform , DAR , certificates of land ownership
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