DAR chief creates new body to resolve conversion cases

By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz

To speed up the resolution of conversion cases, Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary John Castriciones has created a new collegial body deputized to act on applications for land use conversion.

Department of Agrarian Reform John Castriciones gestures during the Commission on Appointments committee hearing at Senate Building, Pasay City, May 29,2018.(Czar Dancel / MANILA BULLETIN)
Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary John Castriciones

The group, called the “Land Use Cases Committee” (LUCC), will be also authorized to grant or reject applications for exemption and exclusion of agricultural lands from the coverage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

Under the law, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary “shall be the approving authority for land use conversion applications involving lands with an area larger than five hectares.”

Castriciones, however, decided to delegate this power in deference to President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive “to streamline the conversion, exemption and exclusion processes for speedy resolution of the same,” read DAR Administrative Order No. 6, Series of 2019.

The LUCC will be composed of a chairperson, a vice-chairperson, and three members each for the sub-committees on land use conversion, exemption and exclusion.

The committee shall issue decisions, resolutions and/or orders pertaining to the following: application for conversion, application for extension of the development period, petition for revocation of the conversion order, application for exemption, application for exclusion, petition for revocation of the exemption/exclusion orders, application/lifting of cease and desist order, and appeal from the decision of the regional director relative to the aforesaid application/petition involving lands with an area of five hectares and below.

The DAR chief tapped Assistant Secretary Jim Coleto of the DAR Adjudication Board as chairperson of the LUCC, and Assistant Secretary for Field Operations Elmer Distor as vice-chairperson. They will sit as chairperson and vice-chairperson, respectively, in all three sub-committees.

Working with them are the following officials:

Assistant Secretary for Support Service Celerina Afable, Legal Service Director Marvin Bernal and Agrarian Reform Capacity Development Service Director Susana Serrano for the Committee on Conversion; Assistant Secretary for Finance, Management and Administration Ma. Patricia Rualo-Bello, Presidential Agrarian Reform Council Secretariat Director James Ponce and Bureau of Land Tenure Improvement Director Leandro Caymo for the Committee on Exemption; and, DARAB member Rolando Cua, Administrative Service Director Primo Lara, and Bureau of Land Tenure Improvement Assistant Director Joey Sumatra for the Committee on Exclusion.
A vote of three of the five-member committee, who are present during the deliberation, would be sufficient for the approval or disapproval of applications.