Communal ARB lands still covered for individual titling

SAN FRANCISCO, Agusan del Sur (MindaNews / 14 November) — Communal lands that are still being maintained by cooperatives of Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs) who are former farmworkers of an oil palm plantation company are still covered by individual titling of lands, a top official of the Provincial Agrarian Reform Office here clarified.

Allan Mundala, Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer I, explained during the orientation on the Support to Parcelization of Lands for Individual Titling (SPLIT) Project of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) on Friday that several hectares of land planted to oil palm and other produce that splintered ARB groups still maintain will be raffled off for the survey of individual titles.

Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries who are former farmworkers of an oil palm plantation company in Agusan Sur check on their names in the tarpaulin to make sure they are listed as beneficiaries of individual titles on June 30 next year. CHRIS V. PANGANIBAN

He, however, clarified that these parcels of communal lands up for individual titling to ARBs through the SPLIT Project should be agreed upon by their respective cooperatives or associations.

The issue on communal lands that are still maintained by ARB groups came after an ARB stood up to disclose that there are still 63 hectares of land for SPLIT implementation which are  managed by the group led by Emmanuel Sustino who used these parcels to avail of loans from the Philippine Coconut Authority.

Another ARB who belongs to NGPI Multi Purpose Cooperative (NGPI MPC) led by Nestor Alcular revealed that some of them were subjected to sign a waiver of rights to allow their group’s management to keep the Collective Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CCLOA) documents to maintain the operation of their parcels.

Jamil Jamantoding, Provincial Agrarian Reform Program Officer II, said the waiver documents will not be honored by DAR.

The awarding of individual CLOAs is set on June 30 next year in time for the anniversary of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

Members of the NGPI MPC had just been given 40 percent of their profit share while the 60 percent was intended for the day-to-day operations and salaries of office and field workers.

The Alcular group operated their farmlands through clusters and their produce would depend on how productive each cluster is.

This scheme however, led to dissatisfaction of members who get measly shares and reportedly led to the killing of cluster leader Dionisio Cabatuan on September 25.

Leaders of NGPI ARBs MPC have opposed the SPLIT project since it was implemented early this year.

Raul Batiao, manager of the cooperative, said collective ownership of ARB lands is favorable for the cooperative to operate and improve the lives of its members.

The ARB group of Metodio Abalayan, belonging to Maligaya Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative (MAARBCO), considered as the most productive among five groups, has agreed to the individual titling of CLOAs.

But Abalayan said members have agreed that their lands will still be handled by the management until they fully replant their areas with oil palm trees and will fully pay Filipinas Palm Oil Plantation, Inc. the development cost in planting oil palm on some 300  hectares out of MAARBECO’s 447 hectares.

There are some 1,143 ARBs who are owners of the collective CLOAs involving 3,800 hectares. In 2016, the company, NDC Guthrie Plantations, Inc., returned the land to the ARBs due to internal conflict within the cooperative.

Amatonding said DAR -Agusan del Sur has targeted to complete the field validation activities by the end of this year, a requisite for delineating the collective CLOAs.

Throughout its four-year implementation, the SPLIT Project will cover around 54,000 hectares with 3,174 collective CLOAs that will benefit some 25,000 ARBs in Agusan del Sur. (Chris V. Panganiban / MindaNews