For the Record: Report on the state of Agrarian Reform, January 2013

In light of the criticism of some sectors that, at current pace, the acquisition and distribution of agricultural lands under the Agrarian Reform Program will not be completed by June 30, 2014, please see the following, as previously reported by the Department of Agrarian Reform:

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I. Report on the Land Acquisition and Distribution Aspect of Agrarian Reform, January 2013

CHALLENGES, STRATEGIES, AND PROSPECTS

Lands which were easier to distribute make up bulk of past distributed lands. Land distribution accomplishment of the DAR from 1972-2012 show that more than three-fourths of distributed lands (76%) are either government-owned lands (GOL/KKK lands and settlements) or lands distributed through voluntary modes of acquisition (voluntary land transfers or voluntary offer to sell). Past DAR Secretaries rode the wave of easily acquired lands and the distribution of collective certificates of land ownership award (CLOAs) to abbreviate the protocols in achieving targets. Consciously or unconsciously, the DAR prioritized lands that were easier, less contentious, and less tedious to acquire and distribute, effectively leaving the hardest for last and resulting in the progressive increase in the complexity of lands slated for acquisition and distribution.

What is left to distribute is radically different: more difficult, more tedious and more contentious. It is these more complex lands that government is now acquiring and distributing.  Around 90% of the current land acquisition and distribution (LAD) balance consists of private agricultural lands, with 83% of lands being compensable by the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and 61% requiring coverage by compulsory acquisition. Moreover, 42% are large private agricultural lands of more than 24 hectares. As of January 1, 2013, the remaining LAD balance to be acquired by DAR is at 879,526 hectares.

Though huge at first glance, completing the land acquisition and distribution component of the agrarian reform program is by no means impossible. Indeed, if the target date for completion is June 2016 as per Your Excellency’s commitment during the Third SONA, this is eminently doable.

a. The 879,526 hectares is the gross area of what it left for acquisitions, i.e. this is the total area of all landholding from which distributable lands will be segregated and actually distributed to agrarian reform beneficiaries.

i. Thus from the gross LAD balance, we have to take away the so-called “non-CARPABLE” portions such as roads, easements, creeks, undeveloped portions of more than 18° slope, and others.

ii. Also, landowner retention area will, of course, not be distributed to agrarian reform beneficiaries. Retention area becomes more significant since the LAD balance consists mainly of private agricultural lands. This becomes more when we consider that there are almost 35,000 landholdings (out of a total of 93,926 landholdings) which are of sizes from 5 hectares to 10 hectares and 18,684 landholdings with sizes of more than 10 hectares up to below 24 hectares. All in all, it is estimated that landowners will claim 175,000 hectares as retention area.

b. The LAD balance is not static. Every year, there are lands deducted and lands included in the LAD balance. For 2012 alone, 117,432 hectares were newly identified and included in the LAD balance. On the other hand, 119,319 hectares were deducted from the LAD balance.

c. Considering the above figures, it is estimated that NET LAD Balance (or actually distributable lands) amounts to 704,526 hectares. Of the Net LAD balance, 182,121 hectares are tagged as problematic (with pending cases, technical problems, etc.). This leaves us a Net WORKABLE LAD Balance of 522,405 hectares.

With the NET LAD Balance of 522,405 hectares as basis, and June 2016 as deadline, the DAR came up with its January 2013June 2016 Strategic Targets as follows:

2013 160,000 hectares
2014 180,000 hectares
2015 120,000 hectares
Jan-June 2016 62,406 hectares

This strategic target is realistic and doable.

The DAR will, of course, do its best to resolve the issues facing the problematic landholdings. In which case, the yearly annual accomplishment from 2013-June 2016 will be:

2013 160,000 hectares
2014 240,707 hectares
2015 180,707 hectares
Jan-June 2016 123,113 hectares

For 2012, the Department completed the processing for acquisition and distribution of 113,866 hectares for which EP/CLOAs were distributed for 101,858 hectares. A further 21,491 hectares at the LRA for EP/CLOA registration. This totals 135,357 hectares which is the true measure of the accomplishment of DAR’s field personnel.

a. It is important to note that with the generation of EP/CLOAs and its submission to the LRA for registration, DAR’s land acquisition and distribution work is essentially finished.

b. In addition to the 135,357 hectares, a further 24,352 hectares are at the advanced stages of the land acquisition and distribution process.

DAR’s 2012 LAD accomplishment is more than the figures above. The DAR processed 47,858 claim folders of covered landholdings totaling 471,415 hectares and issued 25,841 Notices of Coverage for 299,337 hectares of private agricultural lands being covered through compulsory acquisition.

a. In order for the DAR to have a more realistic view of the magnitude and nature of the LAD balance, the DAR processed 47,858 claim folders of landholdings covering 471,415 hectares. This is the first time in DAR’s history that the processing of claim folders was done in this massive scale.

b. It is important to issue Notices of Coverage for all landholding under compulsory acquisition so that even after June 30, 2014, these lands can still be distributed under Section 30 of RA 9700.

Section 30 of R.A. No. 9700 provides that the DAR can continue its acquisition and distribution of landholdings with pending cases or proceedings even beyond 2014.  This is the reason why the DAR has been diligently working to issue and validly serve before June 2014 all Notices of Coverage for lands that will be subjected to compulsory acquisition.

a. A Notice of Coverage initiates the compulsory acquisition of private agricultural lands and is similar to summons issued by courts.

b. The new rules of DAR in fact instituted a similar – almost identical – process of serving Notices of Coverage and summons.  As a matter of policy of the DAR, once a Notice of Coverage is served, the landholding it covers is deemed encompassed by Section 30 of R.A. No. 9700.

c. It is therefore critical for the DAR to issue and serve all Notices of Coverage before 30 June 2014. As of December 2012, it has issued around 95% of the Notices of Coverage for all agricultural landholdings above 10 hectares for which DAR has a copy of title in its possession.

In order to achieve its Strategic Target, the current DAR management thus instituted policy and operational measures to speed up land distribution. Generally, there are 22 major steps in the process of acquiring and distributing private LBP-compensable agricultural lands which take approximately 8.5 months to complete.  This assumes normal conditions. Unfortunately, problems arise in many cases while the documentation and processing are being done. These problematic landholdings take much longer to acquire and they make up 30.7% of all Phase 1-3A lands. The following strategies and interventions were undertaken.

a) Streamlining of the LAD ProcessNew rules for land acquisition and distribution were drafted and issued simplifying the LAD process and shortening time process as well as providing remedial measures for CARP-covered lands subjected to unauthorized transfers or conveyances, commonly referred to as chop-chop titles.

b) Inventory and Review of All Claim Folders. Mass inventory and review of ALL claim folders was undertaken to determine the actual magnitude and status of the LAD balance, identify the issues and problems that need to be resolved so that timely interventions can be provided.

c) Intensification of the Monitoring of the Performance of the PAROs and MAROs. The progress of acquisition is being monitored on a per landholding basis and time standards and cost parameter per LAD activity have been instituted to track deviations, immediately identify problems and put in place remedial measures.

d) System-Wide Solutions to Problems Encountered in Land Acquisition. Global solutions to technical and administrative issues that delay the acquisition process have been put in place and further solutions are being explored as well. For this, the DAR is working closely with its partner agencies, the Land Registration Authority (LRA), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and the Land Bank of the Philippines.

II. On issues raised by the CBCP letter, as reported in the media

1. ISSUE RAISED: At current pace, the acquisition and distribution of agricultural lands will not be completed by 30 June 2014.

a. It was present DAR Administration who in 2011, after assessing the limitations placed by the law (CARPER) on land acquisition and distribution and the nature of the remaining lands to be distributed, revealed that land acquisition and distribution will not be completed by June 2014. It is being pilloried for telling the truth. But it’s assessment also revealed that completing land acquisition and distribution is doable before the end of the President’s term.

b. During his Third State of the Nation Address, the President made a commitment that the land acquisition and distribution component of the agrarian reform program will be completed before his term ends.

c. Note that nothing in the law states that the DAR cannot distribute CARP-covered agricultural lands beyond 2014.  In fact, Section 30 of R.A. No. 9700 states that the implementation of CARP can be conducted even beyond 2014 with respect to those with pending case/proceeding.  This is the purpose why the DAR has been diligently working to issue and validlyserve ALL Notices of Coverage before 2014.

i. The Notice of Coverage initiates the compulsory acquisition of private agricultural lands and is similar to summons issued by courts. 

ii. The new rules of DAR in fact put in place a similar – almost identical – process of serving Notices of Coverage and summons.  As a matter of policy of this Department, once a Notice of Coverage is served, the landholding it covers is deemed encompassed by Section 30 of R.A. No. 9700. 

iii. It is therefore critical for the DAR to issue and serve all Notices of Coverage before 30 June 2014. As of December 2012, it has issued around 95% of the Notices of Coverage for all agricultural landholdings above 10 hectares which DAR has a copy of title in its possession.  Close cooperation between DAR and LRA allows DAR to obtain,in bulk and in a speedy manner, the certified true copies of titles that it need for the issuance of Notices of Coverage. By April of this year, it will start issuing all Notices of Coverage for all 5-10 hectare landholdings.  DAR plans to completely issue all Notices of Coverage by the end of June 2013.

d. Last January 2012, the gross balance of DAR for land acquisition and distribution is around 962,000 hectares. However, in order to reflect the real balance for distribution at this moment, the following must be considered:

i. It is estimated that retention area (portions of the landholdings that, by law, the landowner can retain) would amount to around 175,000 hectares. This must be deducted from the balance of actual distributable lands.

ii. Aside from these are deductibles such as timberlands, creeks, and rivers, double counting and the like. This aspect of the land distribution data was “cleaned” after the DAR conducted a nationwide evaluation of ALL claim folder some of which had never been opened again in the preceeding years. This massive claim folder processing was the first in the agency’s history. DAR opened all claim folders to determine their actual status any problems that must be fixed. These deductibles amount to 120,000.

iii. There are around 158,000 hectares which the administration cannot be distributed immediately because of problems that do not have quick solutions – such as titles that require judicial reconstitution and erroneous technical descriptions in titles.

iv. We also take away from this gross balance the actual accomplishment of DAR for 2012 – 113,000, hectares.

v. We have to include though newly identified landholdings for coverage, around 125,000.

vi. This leaves us around 521,000 hectares that can actually be covered and are actually distributable at this juncture.  The DAR can acquire and distribute 160,000 this year (2013), 180,000 next year, 120,000 on 2015, and 62,406 on the first half of 2016.  The DAR can definitely accomplish the distribution of these 521,000 hectares before the President’s term ends.

e. Furthermore, the landholdings that are easier, less tedious and less contentious to acquire have mostly been distributed in the past. When the Aquino administration commenced, the remaining lands left for distribution are the ones that are more tedious or harder to document and process. More than 60% of the remaining lands will have to be covered through compulsory acquisition (cf voluntary).

f. Moreover, around 16% of lands still to be distributed have been tagged as problematic with problems ranging from defective technical descriptions in the title, titles that need to be reconstituted, ownership issues, and those with pending legal issues or court cases.

g. An important reason why LAD cannot be finished with LAD by June 2014 is the CARPER itself. Aside from adding two major mandatory requirements in the compulsory acquisition of private agricultural land, the Phasing mandated by CARPER means that the DAR cannot distribute until July 1, 2013, some 187,959 hectares of Phase 3B lands (lands that are 10 hectares and below) and 163,660 hectares of the 10-hectare portion of Phase 3A land (lands above 10 hectares up to 24 hectares). This totals 351,619 hectares or about 40% of the remaining undistributed lands and these lands have to be distributed within one year and only at the last year of CARP extension.

h. Incidentally, the DAR’s work is not limitedto just the acquisition and distribution of agricultural landholdings.  As it is zealously pursuing its acquisition and distribution balance, it must also simultaneously subdivide collective CLOAs, work on landholdings under PD 27 that has been distributed without complete documentation during the Marcos era thereby impeding the release of the landowner’s just compensation, provide support services to its beneficiaries, assist farmers in agrarian legal cases, and resolve cases within its jurisdiction.

2. The dismal pace of DAR is further shown by its lowering of its 2012 accomplishment target from 260,000 hectares to 180,000 hectares.

a. The original 260,000 hectares target for 2012 was initially set as indicative annual targets during the previous administration.  While the current administration primarily adopted this target, it subsequently recalibrated this figure after the DAR conducted its claim folder days operation (literally, the DAR opened all claim folders to determine their actual status any problems that must be fixed).  With the results of the claim folder days operation on hand, the DAR reconfigured the annual targets distributing the remaining balance to 2016 rather than 2014.

b. Take note though that while the DAR has indeed recalibrated its target for 260,000 to 180,000 hectares, the allocated budget was utilized to beef up the activities (i.e. finance land acquisition activities up to the conduct of land survey) for the 111,000 hectare that was in the pipeline for that year (landholdings in the pipeline are those where preliminary activities, such as documentation and survey, are conducted in the year prior to the year it is poised to be acquired and distributed [i.e. those in the pipeline in 2012 are those that are in the targetfor 2013]).  We are fortunate that for the first time in history, budget was released for the DAR to conduct preliminary activities for the acquisition and distribution of landholdings for the following year.

3. LAD accomplishment should not be reckoned at registration of CLOAs but at the time the actual possession of the beneficiaries.

a. The manner of reporting by the DAR of its land acquisition and distribution accomplishments, for purposes of accounting its expenses and budget, has always been based on the number of CLOAs registered.  This has been used not only by this administration, but all the past administrations as well.

b. The DAR, by no means, is saying that it will not ensure that beneficiaries with CLOAs have actual possession of their landholdings.  It understands that it is its duty to install the beneficiaries, and thus is continuously conducting this.  The DAR however should not be criticized that this is not used by DAR in determining its accomplishment.

c. Note as well that not all CARP-acquired lands would require that the agrarian reform beneficiaries be installed into their CARP-acquired lands. In cases where tenancy or leasehold arrangements obtain, installation is not necessary because the agrarian reform beneficiaries are in place.

4. DAR’s budget for 2013 is lower than P30 billion requirement of the law.

a. Nothing in the law provides that the DAR must be given a budget of P30 billion annually.  What is stated is that P150B must be allocated for the program.  The annual budget, however, is to be based on the annual targets of the DAR, not on a designated lump sum regardless of the balance.

b. The DAR’s budget for 2013 under the General Appropriations Act is around P23 billion. Note, however, that funds appropriated under the Department of Agriculture benefit farmers, most of whom are agrarian reform beneficiaries such as farm-to-market roads, irrigation projects, credit facility for agrarian reform beneficiaries, etc. All in all, this amounts to a lot more P30 billion.

5. No funds were appropriated for socialized credit.

a. This is simply not true.

b. The President has directed the DBM to release P1 billion to be used as socialized credit for agrarian reform beneficiaries.  The Agrarian Production Credit Program was created using the P1 billion released through the DA to be used as socialized credit.  This will be implemented mainly by the Land Bank, with DAR designated as the agency who will verify if the applicants are agrarian reform beneficiary organizations.

c. Around P300M of the P1billion released is reserved for agrarian reform beneficiaries of Negros Occidental.

d. For 2013, another P1 billion was appropriated in the budget of the Department of Agriculture for credit facility for agrarian reform beneficiaries.

6. DAR’s accomplishment for 2012 is doubtful considering that as of December 13 of that year, its accomplishment was only 53,580 hectares.  Does this mean that DAR distributed more than 63 thousand hectares in the final two weeks of the year?

a. It is unfortunate that some groups relied on figures that they have obtained in 13 December 2012.  It is more unfortunate that these figures are interpreted as the accomplishment of DAR as of that date.  Figures that the DAR had on hand in 13 December 2012 were partial figures of DAR as of November 2012.  As with any other operations, there is a natural time lag between the actual accomplishment and the consolidation of its figure.

b. Moreover, the LAD process takes around 8 months for private agricultural lands; more if problems are encountered along the way. Considering the period required to finish the entire LAD process, landholdings covered during the year usually matures by December. An examination of the monthly accomplishment of DAR in the past years will bear this out.

c. Partial figures obtain in the middle of a particular period should not be relied on as a determination of what will be accomplished therefor.

d. Per the DAR’s records upon collating figures from the field offices, it has accomplished distributing around 113,000 hectares in 2012.
Systems put in place are too legalistic and has added bureaucratic layers.

7. Systems put in place are too legalistic and has added bureaucratic layers.

a. Systems put in place by the present administration ensure the stability of CLOAs issued to the beneficiaries.  With the systems put in place, such as determining prior to the issuance of the CLOA whether a landholding to be distributed is indeed covered by CARP, the beneficiaries are assured that their titles are secured.

b. System introduced also ensured that it is made with a holistic view in mind.  Communication among CARP implementing agencies, such as DAR, DENR, Land Bank, and LRA, spiked during the present administration resulting in rules which looks not only at activities that are worked by individual agencies, but the entire government bureaucracy as a whole.  This means that the process is now more efficient, allowing the government, under normal circumstances, to complete the acquisition and distribution process within six to ten months, compared to the old system which took up eight to fourteen months.

8. Provisions in the current land acquisition and distribution rules allow landowners to delay the acquisition and distribution of their lands.

a. The present law (CARPER) added a provision that required landlord attestation of potential agrarian reform beneficiaries. This by no means can be faulted against the Aquino Administration nor the DAR which can only implement what is provided by law.

b. An issue is being made out of the provision in the current rules which provides that in case there are pending protests or petitions for exclusion/exemption from CARP coverage, the DAR shall continue with the process of acquisition right until the actual payment of just compensation and cancellation of the landowner’s title.  Once a decision by the Regional Director or the Secretary denying the protest/petition becomes final and executory, or if appealed, once the Office of the President has decided against the protest/petition, regardless if it is appealed to the courts or not, the process can right after continue.

c. This criticized provision was enacted for three reasons: (1) it will prevent the premature release of public funds for the payment of landowner’s just compensation pending the determination whether or not the landholding is indeed covered; (2) it will also avoid the situation of having to uproot beneficiaries which was installed prematurely while the issue of whether or not the landholding is covered under CARP; and finally (3) it will accord due process to the landowner by allowing a full determination of whether or not the landholding is indeed covered before his/her/its title is cancelled.

9. No one has been held accountable for the agrarian-related deaths of 13 farmer leaders of TFM.

During the dialogue with the President, the TFM demanded justice for 13 farmer leaders that were murdered in previous years. The DAR immediately requested from TFM a list of the leaders who were allegedly murdered. It took some time for the TFM to submit this list.  As soon as the list was submitted, this was immediately endorsed by the Office of the Secretary to the Philippine National Police for their investigation.  The PNP is currently investigating these alleged murders.

10. The Multi-Sectoral Task Force was not able to hold the DAR leadership accountable.

The MSTF was created to monitor the progress of the agrarian reform program and discuss doables.  It has already met three times since the dialogue of some farmer groups with the President.  Its Technical Working Group has also consistently met last year, which resulted to the fast-tracking of some landholdings – such as the landholding being followed up by “AlingDorita” Vargas, and the problematic Newsal property in Negros Occidental.

11. The current DAR leadership has already lost the confidence of its employees.

a. The noise against the DAR leadership is being staged a handful of disgruntled DAR employees in the Central Office, mostly national officers of the DAR Employees Association (DAREA). No such mass actions have occurred in the field offices of DAR.

b. So far, there are no indications that the criticisms of the few DAREA officers are carried as a common sentiment of the entire DAR employees.

c. Furthermore, the issues raised by this small group – such as the proposed special provision number 5in the DAR budgetand the disbursement of CNA incentives—had already been resolved. Special Provision number 5 was deleted from the 2013 budget and the CNA incentives were released starting January 16 of this year.

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