“I believe Secretary Castriciones still enjoys the trust and confidence of the President. In fact, the President said something to that effect," Cabinet Secretary quips about the DAR chief.

MANILA, Philippines — Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriociones is not on his way out despite President Duterte’s frustration over the slow pace in resolving land use conversion requests at the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said yesterday.

“I believe Secretary Castriciones still enjoys the trust and confidence of the President. In fact, the President said something to that effect,” Nograles said.

He said government agencies would draft a joint memorandum circular to speed up the approval of land conversion applications to 30 working days.

Duterte earlier said the slow-paced process makes DAR officials prone to corruption.

The agencies include the DAR, Departments of the Interior and Local Government, Environment and Natural Resources and Energy, Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, National Housing Authority, Land Registration Authority,  Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board and Social Housing Finance Corp.

Nograles added the government would provide assistance to farmers through a financing program to be spearheaded by the Land Bank of the Philippines.

The Landbank had presented to the Cabinet the Accessible and Sustainable Lending program for farmers.

DAR Undersecretary for legal affairs Luis Pañgulayan said the department would issue an administrative order to speed up land use conversion.

He explained that application for land conversion from agricultural to residential or commercial to industrial is a tedious process.

“The applicant needs to submit a land use plan based on an ordinance passed by the local government unit,” Pañgulayan said.

“They also need to submit to DAR a feasibility study, including a comprehensive development plan with financial and logistical capability,” he added.

There are 66 applications pending at DAR for land use conversion, mostly commercial and residential.

This article originally appeared on Philstar.com on February 9, 2018.

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