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DOJ OPINION NO. 044, s.

1990
March 16, 1990

Secretary Florencio Aba
De!art"ent o# A$rarian %e#or"
Dili"an, &'e(on )ity

S i r *
This refers to your letter of the 13th instant stating your "position that prior to
the passage of R.A. 6657, the Department of Agrarian Reform had the authority to
classify and declare hich agricultural lands are suita!le for non"agricultural
purposes, and to appro#e or disappro#e applications for con#ersion from
agricultural to non"agricultural uses."
$n support of the foregoing #ie, you contend that under R.A. %o. 3&'', as
amended, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) is empoered to "determine
and declare an agricultural land to !e suited for residential, commercial, industrial
or some other ur!an purpose" and to "con#ert agricultural land from agricultural to
non"agricultural purposes"* that +.D. %o. 5&3, as amended !y +.D. %o. &15
"affirms that the con#ersion of agricultural lands shall !e alloed only upon
pre#ious authori,ation of the -DAR.* ith respect to tenanted rice and corn lands"*
that a /emorandum of Agreement dated /ay 13, 1077 !eteen the DAR, the
Department of 1ocal 2o#ernment and 3ommunity De#elopment and the then
4uman 5ettlements 3ommission "further affirms the authority of the -DAR. to
allo or disallo con#ersion of agricultural lands"* that 6.7. %o. 180"A e9pressly
in#ests the DAR ith e9clusi#e authority to appro#e or disappro#e con#ersion of
agricultural lands for residential, commercial, industrial and other land uses:* and
that hile in the final #ersion of 4ouse ;ill '<<, 5ection 0 thereof pro#ided that
lands de#oted to "residential, housing, commercial and industrial sites classified as
such !y the municipal and city de#elopment councils as already appro#ed !y the
4ousing and 1and =se Regulatory ;oard, in their respecti#e ,oning de#elopment
plans" !e e9empted from the co#erage of the Agrarian Reform program, this
clause as deleted from 5ection 1< of the final #ersion of the consolidated !ill
stating the e9emptions from the co#erage of the 3omprehensi#e Agrarian Reform
+rogram.
>e ta?e it that your @uery has !een prompted !y the study pre#iously made
!y this Department for 69ecuti#e 5ecretary 3atalino /acaraig Ar. and 5ecretary
Bicente Aayme (/emorandum dated Ce!ruary 1', 100<) hich upheld the
authority of the DAR to authori,e con#ersions of agricultural lands to non"
agricultural uses as of Aune 15, 10&&, the date of effecti#ity of the 3omprehensi#e
Agrarian Reform 1a (R.A. %o. 6657). it is your position that the authority of
DAR to authori,e such con#ersion e9isted e#en prior to Aune 15, 10&& or as early
as 1063 under the Agricultural 1and Reform 3ode (R.A. %o. 3&''* as amended).
$t should !e made clear at the outset that the aforementioned study of this
Department as !ased on facts and issues arising from the implementation of the
3omprehensi#e Agrarian Reform +rogram (3AR+). >hile there is no specific and
e9press authority gi#en to DAR in the 3AR+ la to appro#e or disappro#e
con#ersion of agricultural lands to non" agricultural uses, !ecause 5ection 65 only
refers to con#ersions effected after fi#e years from date of the aard, e opined
that the authority of the DAR to appro#e or disappro#e con#ersions of agricultural
lands to non"agricultural uses applies only to con#ersions made on or after Aune
15, 10&&, the date of effecti#ity of R.A. %o. 6657, solely on the !asis of our
interpretation of DAR:s mandate and the comprehensi#e co#erage of the land
reform program. Thus, e saidD
";eing #ested ith e9clusi#e original Eurisdiction o#er all matters
in#ol#ing the implementation of agrarian reform, it is !elie#ed to !e the
agrarian reform la:s intention that any con#ersion of a pri#ate
agricultural land to non" agricultural uses should !e cleared !eforehand !y
the DAR. True, the DAR:s e9press poer o#er land use con#ersion is
limited to cases in hich agricultural lands already aarded ha#e, after
fi#e years, ceased to !e economically feasi!le and sound for agricultural
purposes, or the locality has !ecome ur!ani,ed and the land ill ha#e a
greater economic #alue for residential, commercial or industrial purposes.
;ut to suggest that these are the only instances hen the DAR can re@uire
con#ersion clearances ould open a loophole in the R.A. %o. 6657, hich
e#ery landoner may use to e#ade compliance ith the agrarian reform
program. 4ence, it should logically follo from the said department:s
e9press duty and function to e9ecute and enforce the said statute that any
reclassification of a pri#ate land as a residential, commercial or industrial
property should first !e cleared !y the DAR."
$t is conceded that under the las in force prior to the enactment and effecti#e
date of R.A. %o. 6657, the DAR had li?eise the authority, to authori,e
con#ersions of agricultural lands to other uses, !ut alays in coordination ith
other concerned agencies. =nder R.A. %o. 33'', as amended !y R.A. %o. 63&0, an
agricultural lessee may, !y order of the court, !e dispossessed of his landholding if
after due hearing, it is shon that the "landholding is declared !y the -DAR. upon
the recommendation of the National Planning Commission to !e suited for
residential, commercial, industrial or some other ur!an purposes."
1i?eise, under #arious +residential Decrees (+.D. %os. 5&3, &15 and 0'6)
hich ere issued to gi#e teeth to the implementation of the agrarian reform
program decreed in +.D. %o. 87, the DAR as empoered to authori,e
con#ersions oftenanted agricultural lands, specifically those planted to rice
and/or corn, to other agricultural or to non"agricultural uses, "subject to studies on
zoning of the Human Settlements Commissions" (453). This non-exclusive
authority of the DAR under the aforesaid las as, as you ha#e correctly pointed
out, recogni,ed and reaffirmed !y other concerned agencies, such as the
Department of 1ocal 2o#ernment and 3ommunity De#elopment (D123D) and
the then 4uman 5ettlements 3ommission (453) in a /emorandum of Agreement
e9ecuted !y the DAR and these to agencies on /ay 13, 1077, hich is an
admission that ith respect to land use planning and con#ersions, the authority is
not e9clusi#e to any particular agency !ut is a coordinated effort of all concerned
agencies.
$t is significant to mention that in 107&, the then /inistry of 4uman
5ettlements as granted authority to revie and ratify land use plans and zoning
ordinance of local governments and to appro#e de#elopment proposals hich
include land use con#ersions (see 17$ %o. 780 -107&.). This as folloed !y +.D.
%o. 6'& (10&1) hich conferred upon the 4uman 5ettlements Regulatory
3ommission (the predecessors of the 4ousing and 1and =se Regulatory ;oard
-41=R;. the authority to promulgate ,oning and other land use control standards
and guidelines hich shall go#ern land use plans and ,oning ordinances of local
governments, su!di#ision or estate de#elopment proEects of !oth the pu!lic and
pri#ate sector and ur!an reneal plans, programs and proEects* as ell as to
re#ie, e#aluate and appro#e or disappro#e comprehensi#e land use de#elopment
plans and ,oning components of ci#il or?s and infrastructure proEects, of
national, regional and local go#ernments, su!di#isions, condominiums or estate
de#elopment proEects including industrial estates.
+.D. %o. 5&3, as amended !y +.D. %o. &15, and the 1077 /emorandum of
Agreement, a!o#ementioned, cannot therefore, !e construed as sources of
authority of the DAR* these issuances merely affirmed hate#er poer DAR had
at the time of their adoption.
>ith respect to your o!ser#ation that 6.7. %o. 180"A also empoered the
DAR to appro#e or disappro#e con#ersions of agricultural lands into non"
agricultural uses as of Auly 88, 10&7, it is our #ie that 6.7. %o. 180"A li?eise
did not pro#ide a ne source of poer of DAR ith respect to con#ersion !ut it
merely recogni,ed and reaffirmed the e9istence of such poer as granted under
e9isting las. This is clearly inferra!le from the folloing pro#ision of 6.7. %o.
180"A to itD
"5ec. 5. Poers and !unctions. +ursuant to the mandate of the
Department, and in order to ensure the successful implementation of the
3omprehensi#e Agrarian Reform +rogram, the Department is here!y
authori,ed toD
1) 4a#e e9clusi#e authority to appro#e or
disappro#e con#ersion of agricultural lands for
residential, commercial, industrial and other land
uses as may be provided by la" (6mphasis
supplied.)
Anent the o!ser#ation regarding the alleged deletion of residential, housing,
commercial and industrial sites classified !y the 41=R; in the final #ersion of the
3AR+ !ill, e fail to see ho this circumstances could su!stantiate your position
that DAR:s authority to reclassify or appro#e con#ersions of agricultural lands to
non"agricultural uses already e9isted prior to Aune 15, 10&&. 5urely, it is clear that
the alleged deletion as necessary to a#oid a redundancy in the 3AR+ la hose
co#erage is e9pressly limited to "all pu!lic and pri#ate agricultural lands" and
"other lands of the public domain suitable for agriculture" (5ec. ', R.A. %o.
6657). 5ection 3(c) of R.A. %o. 6657 defines "agricultural land" as that "de#oted
to agricultural acti#ity as defined in the Act and not classified as mineral forest#
residential# commercial or industrial land."
;ased on the foregoing premises, e reiterate the #ie that ith respect to
con#ersions of agricultural lands co#ered !y R.A. %o. 6657 to non"agricultural
uses, the authority of DAR to appro#e such con#ersions may !e e9ercised from the
date of the la:s effecti#ity on Aune 15, 10&&. This conclusion is !ased on a li!eral
interpretation of R.A. %o. 6657 in the light of DAR:s mandate and the e9tensi#e
co#erage of the agrarian reform program.
Bery truly yours,
F%AN+,IN M. D%I,ON
Secretary