“Cash-strapped” DAR moving to multi-million peso office

The choice for the relocation, said Rodolfo Inson, DAR Southeastern Mindanao regional director, is either the Durian Hotel in Bajada or another commercial building in downtown Claveria Street. Both buildings have been foreclosed

Inson said the hotel, foreclosed by the Bank of Philippine Islands, would cost around P300 million and the Alcanatara-owned structure in Claveria Street, P147 million.

He said the decision on which building to buy will be known this week.

When asked if DAR has money to spare for the relocation, Inson said there must be as the national government has pushed for it.

Earlier, DAR Secretary Nasser Pangandaman announced they might initially rent an office for the relocation.

He said the relocation would most likely be pursued as it is President Arroyo’s commitment for the super regions in her 2006 State of the Nation Address. The transfer is expected to affect at least 1,400 employees at the central office in Quezon City.

Inson revealed the planned transfer in a press conference Wednesday. At the same time he declared the DAR is asking for an extension of CARP because it has no more funds for land acquisition and redistribution to farmer-beneficiaries.

The program ends in June next year.

Inson claimed the DAR has already achieved 94 percent of its land distribution program. But he said around 1.2 million hectares have remained undistributed. He added this is the reason why at least seven bills seeking the extension of CARP have been filed in Congress.

He said only 60 percent of the total 133,000 beneficiaries have received support services such as roads, bridges, school buildings and agricultural support.

He denied that extending the program would be an admission of failure.

"We have capacity to distribute but cannot afford to pay for distribution because of the limited budget," he said.

Salvador Feranil, chair of PhilNet Mindanao, a group supporting agrarian reform beneficiaries said the program has weaknesses but it has not failed.

He noted the need to reform the law and the DAR amid reports some of its personnel connive with landowners to prevent land distribution.

The group has organized a Grassroots Initiatives Forum and Stakeholders Dialogue scheduled later this month to tackle the issues affecting the poor and marginalized sectors.

"To achieve more lasting peace in Mindanao, it is necessary that social and economic reforms take place alongside all the peace initiatives from different groups," he said. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)