A family in Barangay Decalachao, Coron receives the certificate of land ownership award (CLOA) from DAR-Palawan on September 24, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Department of Agrarian Reform-Palawan)

Farmers numbering 757 in a contested land tract in Barangay Decalachao, Coron have received their certificates of land ownership awards (CLOAs) from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) as agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs).

The landholdings were formerly owned by the Philippine Agribusiness Center Corporation (PACECO) located in Decalachao, DAR’s Palawan Office said in a statement released September 27. The awarding was held on September 24 with the presence of law enforcement agencies like the Philippine Marines and Coron Municipal Police Station (MPS).

DAR Acting Provincial Agrarian Reform Program Officer (PARPO) Daisy D. Magbanua said in the statement that the awarding needed the presence of uniformed personnel “to help ensure peace and order in the course of implementation of the writ of installation issued by the DAR”. 

Police and military personnel are seen in this photo during the installation. (Photo courtesy of Department of Agrarian Reform-Palawan)

This alternative, according to her, is reflected in the DAR-DND-DILG Joint Circular No. 5., Series of 2002, which contained the Enforcement of Agrarian Laws and Program via the intervention of the police and military personnel for the successful implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

The writ is a legal jargon equivalent to a Court Order requiring the Provincial Agrarian Reform Program Officer to assume responsibility and ordering the DAR Provincial Sheriff to ensure the ARBs’ physical and actual placement on their awarded agricultural lands with the assistance of the police and military until they are settled and in constructive and physical control of the property.

The installation of ARBs is usually met with significant resistance, harassment, threats of legal action, and physical violence from the previous owner of the property and its supporters, according to DAR Palawan. In the instance of PACECO, however, it is farmer CLOA holders against farmer intruders, with the latter in adverse possession and refusing to give up government-awarded lands that are legally and legitimately belonging to the former.

Through a series of dialogues that began in 2012, the DAR has consistently dismissed their claim of being real occupiers, citing the fact that it was only in 2015 that they unlawfully crept in and took land custody when the property was already under the CARP, the state further explained.

Out of 887 hectares aggregate area, only 814 hectares were initially placed under the coverage of the CARP in 1993 and were issued CLOA and distributed to 757 ARBs in 2012, awarding each of them a 300-square meter-home lot and an average of one (1) hectare of agricultural land. 

The provincial DAR office said only 99 ARBs were able to take real ownership of their allocated properties, while 658 others were repeatedly stopped from entering and taking control of their holdings by intruders.

“Should the PACECO intruders deliberately caused to delay, stall or obstruct the installation of the ARBs, a criminal case will be filed against him/her for violation of Sec. 73 (d) of R.A. No. 6657, as amended. Moreover, the DAR will ask that the PACECO intruders be held liable by the Court for actual, compensatory, and moral damages suffered by the ARBs,” it stated.

“To ensure that installed ARBs will continue to peacefully enjoy their right of ownership and possession over the lands awarded to them, the DAR will construct a detachment onsite which will be manned by the combined forces of the Philippines Marines and the Philippine National Police for three to six months,” it added.

Meantime, in the absence of regular means of transportation from El Nido to Coron, Acting PARPO Magbanua together with 16 DARPO staff alongside the contingents of Philippine Marines led by First Lieutenant Dwight Kent Payosalan had to brave the seas aboard the 50-capacity motorized tourist boat.