THE Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has hailed the Department of Justice (DOJ) for coming up with an opinion that seeks to stop wanton conversion and exemption of irrigated and irrigable prime agricultural lands into housing, industrial or other non-agricultural uses.
DAR Secretary Gil de los Reyes said that the DOJ Opinion No. 43, series of 2011 would serve as a remedial measure against excessive land conversion and exemption that threatens “the country’s self-sustainability and food security.”
The latest DOJ opinion categorically declares that irrigated and irrigable prime farmlands cannot be subject of an application for exemption from the coverage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).
De los Reyes said the opinion, issued upon the request of his office, also applies even to farmlands that are classified as commercial, industrial, or residential before June 15, 1988 when CARP was officially launched.
“This is a significant departure from earlier issuances of the DOJ, such as Opinions Nos. 44 and 181, series of 1990,” he said. Both issuances state that only an exemption clearance from the DAR, not conversion, is needed for all agricultural lands already duly classified as commercial, industrial, or residential before June 15, 1988.
The earlier DOJ issuances, particularly Opinion No. 44, have been used excessively by some landowners as a shield against the agrarian reform program.
De los Reyes said the DOJ Opinion No. 43 is based on the amendment introduced by the Republic Act 9700, the CARP extension with reform Law, which provides that irrigated and irrigable lands shall not be subject to conversion, as the legislative intent of the said law is “to ban any conversion of such agricultural lands.”
The said opinion, he added, also strengthens the government’s policy on the non-negotiability for conversion of irrigated and irrigable lands, as emphasized in various administrative orders issued by the Office of the President, the DAR, and as provided by the CARPer Law. Chad Gallardo, PAS-DAR