DAR chief: 727-hectare Hacienda Luisita property covered by CARP

MANILA, Philippines – Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano on Friday, February 24, issued an order that will place a 727-hectare property of Hacienda Luisita, Incorporated (HLI) in Tarlac under the coverage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

"The order in Hacienda Luisita would give justice to farmer-tenants who have struggled to take the land due to them for more than a quarter of a century, ever since agrarian reform was introduced in the country," Mariano said in a statement posted on the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) website.

Mariano directed the provincial and municipal agrarian reform officers of Tarlac to immediately place 384 hectares of a 500-hectare property of HLI under CARP coverage.

The 500-hectare property was previously approved for conversion in 1996 and has been sold, transferred, and/or assigned to the following:

The 384-hectare property, meanwhile, will be subjected to a retention limit rights with a total of 10-hectare retention limit (5-hectare retention limits each for LRC and RCBC), so only a total of 374 hectares will be covered under CARP.

In addition to the 374-hectare property, another 353 hectares of land owned by Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO) in barangays Balete and Cutcut in Hacienda Luisita will also be part of CARP coverage.

Recent ocular inspection and investigation of a DAR team revealed that the TADECO areas – intentionally excluded by HLI in the previous land distribution process of DAR – can be covered for distribution to farmer beneficiaries.

'No legal basis'

In the statement, Mariano said his department found no legal basis to grant an extension period for the development of the 500-hectare HLI land.

The property was converted from agricultural to industrial use in 1996 by virtue of DARCO Conversion 030601074-764-(95), series of 1996, and HLI requested for an extension of time to complete the development of the property for economic reasons in 2002, and again in 2016.

But according to Mariano, 20 years have already passed since the issuance of the conversion order.

"Pursuant to Section 65 of [Republic Act] 6657, as amended, the failure to fully implement the conversion plan within 5 years from the issuance of the DAR conversion order, or any violation of the conditions of the conversion order, in the event such failure or violation was due to the fault of the applicant, shall cause the land subject thereof to automatically be covered by CARP, subject to the right of retention," he added.

He also cited Section 11 of DAR Administrative Order 7, series of 2011 in coming up with the decision.

Mariano said his recent order is meant to support President Rodrigo Duterte's directive to fast-track the distribution of lands to farmer beneficiaries, fulfill DAR's mandate to cover all available agricultural areas for land reform, and implement the Supreme Court's 2004 order for the total land distribution of Hacienda Luisita.

It was Duterte's campaign promise to pursue land reform by prioritizing the provision of support services alongside land distribution to farmers. – Rappler.com