By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
President Duterte has ordered his Cabinet to address issues involved in land conversion cases and work to streamline and fast-track land conversion procedures to curb corruption.
In a statement, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said Duterte gave members of the Cabinet marching orders to study and review the existing process and to address the bottlenecks affecting the resolution of land conversion cases.
“The President wants to get rid of corruption in land conversion cases, and he understands how delays in processing can be equated with corruption,” he said.
“This is why we have been tasked to improve the current systems so that delays can be avoided,” he added.
According to the Palace official, there has been a steady increase in conversion applications since 2003. As of 2018, there remained 140 pending conversion cases with the agrarian reform department.
Nograles noted that at present, different agencies are involved in land conversion–namely the departments of Agriculture (DA), and Agrarian Reform (DAR) for classification and conversion of land from agriculture to other uses; and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for environmental clearances.
“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 said.
“Once you know what the problems are, coming up with solutions becomes easier––and this is what the agencies involved have been doing,” he added.
According to the former legislator, delays can be attributed to the acceptance of applications with insufficient documentary requirements; redundant processes; delays in the completion of the posting of the billboards and notices due to opposition from interest groups; and open-ended periods for deliberation in the various levels or offices involved in the evaluation of applications.
“Under the current set up, the various steps involved take weeks and even months to process. Kaya umaabot ng (That’s why it takes) 26 to 36 months to process an application,” he said, reiterating the President’s words that this period is unacceptable.
Nograles revealed that in discussions with the DA, DAR, and DENR, proposed measures to address these delays could shorten the whole conversion application process to 30 working days from receipt of the application with complete supporting documents.
“We are now working with the concerned agencies so that the DAR can finalize and implement the new streamlined procedures. The results of the new procedures will be reported to the President in the next few weeks,” he said.
Among the proposed measures to shorten the application period are the deletion of redundant processes, the acceptance of applications that are accompanied by complete supporting documents, and fixing the time limits for each phase of the application process.