Sta. Cruz eyes injunction to stop DAR from covering industrial areas

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 14 September) — The municipal government of Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur will file this month an injunction case for the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to stop covering potential investment areas, Mayor Joel Ray Lopez said on Thursday.

But the Sangguniang Bayan has yet to pass a resolution for the filing of an injunction case before the court, Lopez told journalists during the 2012 Investment Priorities Plan and Investment Roadshow at the Apo View Hotel here.

He described the current disagreement between the local government unit (LGU) and DAR as “a friendly dispute between two government agencies,” with the court as the last arbiter.

At the open forum, Lopez told Oliver B. Butalid, Board of Investments (BOI) governor, that some areas identified for investments by the LGU are covered by DAR’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

Lopez described it as a “little problem” though.

Although the LGU respects DAR for doing its mandate, Lopez argued that from a legal point of view, an LGU is allowed to reclassify portions of agricultural lands up to 1,200 hectares (ha).

He said such allowance has not been exhausted yet as only about 500 ha were reclassified.

Lopez said that “prohibiting DAR from covering the areas potential for commercial and industrial purposes will attract more investors to the municipality.”

The mayor stressed that these agricultural areas are mostly unproductive and some beneficiaries had sold the lands for their failure to pay for the amortization.

He added that these areas are not irrigated or planted to corn or rice, but mostly have very old coconut trees.

He said there are already some investors who expressed intentions to invest in at least 500 ha of lands that the LGU wishes to reclassify such as Zone 4 (Poblacion area), Tagabuli, Bato, and Astorga, among other areas.

Lopez cited an Indian export-oriented investor that intends to put up a manufacturing company at Zone 2, with investments running into millions of pesos.

In fact, the investor had already negotiated with the landowner of such agricultural land, which has a good access to the sea, the mayor added.

Another investor from China is interested to pursue a Mindanao railway project this year and to locate its assembly area at Sta. Cruz, he said.

Lopez said the multi-billion project is too ambitious, prompting him to verify with the BOI if the Chinese investor is reliable.

Butalid told him to confirm with the Public-Private Partnership Center if such railway project is included in the pipeline.

Lopez acknowledged the efforts of the Department of Trade and Industry and the BOI in bringing in investors to the municipality.

He said the LGU had institutionalized investment promotions by putting up its investment promotion board composed of different line agencies of the government.

A first class municipality, Sta. Cruz is home to an almost P10 billion hydropower and a P20 billion coal-fired power plant projects that are being shared with the Davao City government.

Lopez identified some of the big investors in his area as Ayala, San Miguel Corporation and Aboitiz Group. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro/MindaNews)