President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Cabinet to work on streamlining and fast-tracking procedures to accelerate land conversion cases.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles on Wednesday said Duterte gave the marching orders to "study and review the existing process and to address the bottlenecks affecting the resolution of land conversion cases."
"The President wants to get rid of corruption in land conversion cases, and he understands how delays in processing can be equated with corruption. This is why we have been tasked to improve the current systems so that delays can be avoided," Nograles said in a news release.
As of 2018, at least 140 conversion cases remain pending with the agrarian reform department.
"At present, classification and conversion of land from agriculture to other uses are handled by the DA and DAR, respectively, using criteria and regulations specific to these departments. Then there's the DENR which issues environmental clearances," the former legislator from Davao explained.
"The challenge is to get everyone on the same page so that we can identify the choke points in the process and handle these appropriately," Nograles said.
According to Nograles, delays in land conversion cases can be attributed to the acceptance of applications with insufficient documentary requirements; delays in the submission of the applicant's missing certificates, permits, or licenses; redundant processes in the conversion application; delays in the completion of the posting of the billboards and notices due to opposition from interest groups; and open-ended periods for deliberation in the various levels or offices involved in the evaluation of applications.
"Under the current set up, the various steps involved take weeks and even months to process. Kaya umaabot ng 26 to 36 months to process an application. This, as the President repeatedly says, is unacceptable," he said.
Upon discussions with the DA, DAR, and DENR, Nograles said the whole conversion application process could be shortened to 30 working days.
Among the proposed measures to shorten the application period are the deletion of redundant processes, the acceptance of applications that are accompanied by complete supporting documents, and fixing the time limits for each phase of the application process. —Virgil Lopez/ LDF, GMA News