Bohol env’t officials push for extension of agri free patents law
CORTES, Bohol, June 29 (PIA) — At a moment when the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is again set to launch a program that picks up where it left off in its free land titling program, if the law is not remedied countless Boholano farmers would miss their singular chance to security of tenure to the untitled farmlands they have tilled for years.
This as Section 41 of the Public Land Act of the Philippines ruled that any native of the Philippine Islands who is not the owner of more than 24 hectares, and who since July 4, 1907, or prior thereto, has continuously occupied and cultivated, either by himself or through his predecessors in interest, a tract or tracts of agricultural public lands subject to disposition, shall be entitled to have a free patent issued to him for a tract or tracts of such land not to exceed 24 hectares.
But then the law also provides the fixing of proclamation period within which applications for free patents may be filed in the district, province, town or region, and upon the expiration of the period.
Just as the DENR is set to conduct integrated titling operations, the law on Agricultural Free Patents is set to expire by the last day of December 2020.
This means applications of agricultural free patents can only happen before the government closes the window of opportunity, said Bohol Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer (PENRO) Charlie Fabre during the recent Kukabildo sa Kalikopan.
Kukabildo sa Kalikopan, a web streaming interaction offered by DENR Central Visayas for the Environment Month, discussed Rapid Land Tenure Appraisal, a management tool which the DENR in Bohol will use to conduct massive land titling operations.
The operations would have a team from the DENR issuing titles to public lands.
Land titles, Fabre explained, are the most important heirlooms one can give to one’s offspring as this assures them security of tenure in their occupied lands with the official documents to show for it.
Land titles are also important investment tools as government financial institutions would rather look for land titles as collaterals when one borrows money for development purposes, he continued.
DENR may be granting homestead titles for agricultural lands which are only for agricultural purposes, these kinds of titles state that the tract of land under it can not be sold at least until a decade of ownership.
DENR can also facilitate the granting of Agricultural Free Patents, which is now a reformed law under the Agricultural Free Patent Reform Act of 2019 which removes the restrictions on selling and encumbrances and the previous owner’s right to repurchase.
Then there is the Residential Free Patent, special patents for government installations and areas set for development and Sales patent.
As for the Agricultural Free Patent, which has been an easy way for farmers to officially claim public lands set as alienable and disposable, as long as they have been cultivating the land, the filing of applications which have been extended over the years until Dec. 30, 2020 would be closed.
This unless legislators in the House of Representatives and the Senate agree to pass an extension which would allow land settlers to lay claim through a title for their lots, Fabre added.
On this, DENR is now appealing to Bohol solons to sponsor a law that would further extend the government’s acceptance in the filing of Agricultural Free Patents. (rahc/PIA-7/Bohol)