DAR freezes distribution of over 109,000 has. pending resolution of ancestral land issues

THE Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) said it has frozen distribution of 109,223 hectares (has.) of land covered by 13,064 collective certificates of land ownership award (CCLOAs) pending the resolution of ancestral land claims.

The department said in a statement on Monday that it will soon issue a joint administrative order (AO) with the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to deal with such disputes.

The land covered by the suspension was set to be awarded to agrarian reform beneficiaries through the Support to Parcelization of Lands for Individual Titling (SPLIT) project of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform.

“We cannot afford to be entangled in a complicated situation, which will only tie our hands by inadvertently covering lands that were partly or wholly owned by indigenous communities,” Agrarian Reform Secretary Conrado M. Estrella III said.

Mr. Estrella called for caution in the case of “lands suspected of having overlapping issues between agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) and indigenous communities.”

Assistant Secretary Joey G. Sumatra said that the new joint AO is targeted for release within the year.

May mga areas kasi na hindi magalaw for SPLIT mother CLOA subdivision dahil may mga nagke-claim na under ang lupa nila ng ancestral domain. So kailangan ayusin pa ito with NCIP (We cannot touch some areas for SPLIT mother CLOA subdivision because of ancestral domain claims. We need to resolve this with the NCIP),” he said via chat.

According to DAR, Davao Region has 3,996 CLOAs with outstanding ancestral domain issues with a combined area of 32,548 hectares. Soccsksargen has 2,718 land titles with similar issues and Northern Mindanao 2,281 land titles.

Leonardo Q. Montemayor, chairman of Federation of Free Farmers and former Agriculture secretary, said that the ancestral domain issues have been “left to fester.”

He said this was supposed to be addressed by the AO No. 1 and Memorandum Circular No. 8 both issued in 2012 by DAR and NCIP with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Land Management Bureau.

“Potential for conflict is serious among adverse claimants. Losing party may not accept an unfavorable ruling by DAR and/or NCIP,” he said via chat.

Mr. Montemayor noted that the 109,223 hectares that were put on hold represent 8% of the SPLIT project coverage of 1.38 million hectares.

“Also noteworthy is that Mindanao lands represent 71% of area and 66% of titles to be held in abeyance,” he said. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera