More than 50 farmers, together with National Engagement Strategy (NES) Members, met with Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Rafael Mariano and his Undersecretaries on 28 July 2017 at DAR Central Office to present agrarian reform and rural development policy agenda (ARRD); seek DAR’s commitment on the resolution of specific landholding cases of partner communities; and establish coordination mechanisms with the Department.
The group called for due responses and actions on the following areas as follow-up to the status on the ‘Order of Business for the first 100 days’ of DAR Secretary:
- Clarification to the new order of DAR Central Office on the implementation of continuous issuance of NOC by the local offices of DAR;
- Terminate illegal land conversions instigated by landowners particularly in Negros Occidental, and conduct an investigation regarding the matter;
- Support the land installation of all Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA)-holder farmers and ensure safety and support services provision among farmers after the installation;
- Address ‘2nd generation’ issues especially on the individualization of collective CLOAs;
- Implement distribution of remaining lands of education and government reservations not utilized for agriculture, and of the lands sequestered by cronies;
- Continue land distribution to ARBs affected by Typhoon Yolanda;
- Resolve issues on overlapping land claims;
- Issue a DAR Administrative Order on AVAs discussed during a consultation in December 2016;
- Regular mechanism of communication (quarterly) between the farmers and DAR to follow-up the progress of issues raised herein.
Also, partner farmer organizations from areas with problematic issues on land rights claiming, particularly in Negros Island where the majority of the land acquisition and distribution (LAD) backlog of more than 100,000 hectares concentrates, raised their landholding issues on NOC issuance, on-going coverage, installation, and on individualization of collective CLOAs.
The dialogue has ensured the commitment of DAR to release a new department order that will mandate for the continuation of coverage of lands with erroneous NOCs. DAR committed positive actions to land issues presented and set next steps on how to proceed. NES has also established a mechanism with DAR through the People’s Campaign for Agrarian Reform Network, Inc. (AR Now!) in resolving and fast-tracking land tenure issues of the partner communities.