The chief of staff of Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. is not worried over the pronouncement made by President Benigno Aquino III in his State of the Nation Address on the completion of distribution of all lands covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program before his term ends in 2016.
According to Lawyer Jose Marie Valencia, who is also the head of the Provincial Legal Office, the property of the provincial government in Negros First Ranch is not covered by CARP and is definitely exempted from agrarian reform coverage.
Valencia said the decision to put a portion of the Negros First Ranch in Barangay Sta. Rosa, Murcia town under the coverage of CARP was an error committed by the local officers of the Department of Agrarian Reform.
Valencia said the Negros First Ranch being a pasture land is exempted from CARP coverage and the property is considered a public land.
He explained that they were advised to file an exemption before the DAR as a matter of formality but the request is yet to be acted upon by the said agency.
Twenty-six farmers claiming to be beneficiaries of CARP forcibly occupied around 50 hectares of land inside the Negros First Ranch claiming that they were verbally informed by the Municipal Agrarian Reform Officer of Murcia that the property was covered by CARP and is up for distribution.
The forced occupation of farmers belonging to National Federation of Sugarcane Workers over the portion of the ranch irked the governor who ordered their immediate eviction from the property and the filing of criminal charges against them.
Valencia revealed that the provincial government had already filed a civil suit against the Department of Agrarian Reform and the Land Registry Administration and had secured a Temporary Restraining Order against the Provincial Registry of Deeds for annotating the land title of the property under the CARP coverage.
The PLO head, meanwhile, urged the national government particularly the DAR to refrain from enforcing land coverage of productive agricultural lands in the province without due process.
Valencia said the trouble or conflict arises each time DAR indiscriminately places properties under CARP coverage for the purpose of attaining their targeted land distribution before the program expires./WDJ