The House Committee on Agrarian Reform chaired by Rep. Rene Relampagos (1st District, Bohol) has approved a substitute bill seeking to prohibit the conversion of irrigated and irrigable lands for non-agricultural purposes.
The measure seeks to address threats to food security in the country by amending the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988 (CARP) or Republic Act 6657, which was enacted to promote social justice, sound rural development and industrialization and encourage land owners to cultivate economic-size farms as the basis of Philippine agriculture.
Under CARP, farmers are provided the opportunity to own land which they can till to improve their lot and provide adequate food for our countrymen.
However, the same law allows reclassification or conversion of agricultural land and its disposition if the land ceases to be economically feasible or fit for agricultural purposes after the lapse of five years from the time of award, or if the area becomes more urbanized and thus more economically viable for residential, commercial, or industrial purposes.
Under the proposed amendment to RA 6657, conversion or causing the conversion of irrigated and irrigable lands to non-agricultural purposes shall be prohibited.
A penalty consisting of imprisonment of six years and one day to 12 years, and/or a fine of P200,000 to P 1 million shall be imposed for violations of the law.
In general, the measure seeks to address the threats to food security in the country.
Another objective of the bill is to curb corruption in the lower levels. Recognizing that elements within the government bureaucracy may contribute to unchecked conversions, the substitute bill lodges the exclusive power of land conversion to the Congress itself.
Changes to the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law introduced under the bill would also enhance the ability of relevant government agencies to review and assess the status of agricultural lands on a nationwide scale, providing enhanced opportunity to fine tune policies on agrarian reform and food security.