Such was President Rodrigo Duterte's outrage about the slow process in land use conversion that he had to step out of the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, February 6, after an "outburst."
"Dati na siya galit kahapon dahil sa frustration niya sa requirements na kung ano-ano. In fact, he excused himself, he excused himself because parang siguro to – pahinga muna nang kaunti doon sa holding room," recalled Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Thursday, February 7.
(He was angry yesterday out of frustration with various requirements. In fact, he excused himself, he excused himself because maybe to – rest a bit in the holding room.)
Panelo was present at the Wednesday Cabinet meeting, the 34th one held under the Duterte presidency.
Before he stepped out of the Aguinaldo State Dining Room, where Cabinet meetings are held, Duterte spent around 30 minutes blasting the many requirements and incidents that have delayed the conversion of land into agricultural land that can be distributed to smallholder farmers under the government's agrarian reform program.
"The President was so frustrated. He spent, I think, half an hour saying that he's so frustrated about the requirements. It took some time, remember he was dismayed that after two years, the conversion is not moving. It turns out there are other requirements needed from the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources), from the local govenment," said Panelo.
But Duterte appeared not to blame government agencies entirely for the delay. He had also supposedly railed against New People's Army members who allegedly threaten DENR or agrarian reform personnel inspecting the parcels of land.
These threats make it difficult for the agencies to properly assess the land, a necessary step before issuing permits related to land conversion.
But government officials had vowed to speed things up. A Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) undersecretary had discussed a proposal to "streamline internal processes" of agencies involved, including the imposition of "definite timelines" for the processing of permits, said Panelo.
Land use conversion may be good or bad for wider agrarian reform coverage. In some cases, local governments approve the conversion of agricultural land into other types of uses, say, for the building of subdivisions.
But in the case of Boracay, the DAR is using land use conversion to make lands there agricultural so that they can be distributed to the local Ati community, as promised by Duterte.
Duterte had announced last January 29 that he would fire two DAR officials for allegedly sitting on some projects. These two officials and their fate, however, were not brought up during the Cabinet meeting, said Panelo. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.