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Case Digest: Chamber of Real Estate and Builders Associations, Inc. vs Secretary of Agrarian Reform, G.R. No. 183409, Jun 18, 2010, 621 SCRA 295 (2010)
Chamber of Real Estate and Builders Associations, Inc. vs Secretary of Agrarian Reform, G.R. No. 183409, Jun 18, 2010, 621 SCRA 295 (2010)
The Secretary of Agrarian Reform issued, on 29 October 1997, DAR AO No. 07-97, entitled "Omnibus Rules and Procedures Governing Conversion of Agricultural Lands to Non-Agricultural Uses," which consolidated all existing implementing guidelines related to land use conversion. The aforesaid rules embraced all private agricultural lands regardless of tenurial arrangement and commodity produced, and all untitled agricultural lands and agricultural lands reclassified by Local Government Units (LGUs) into non-agricultural uses after 15 June 1988.
Subsequently, on 30 March 1999, the Secretary of Agrarian Reform issued DAR AO No. 01-99, entitled "Revised Rules and Regulations on the Conversion of Agricultural Lands to Non-agricultural Uses," amending and updating the previous ruleson land use conversion. Its coverage includes the following agricultural lands, to wit: (1) those to be converted to residential, commercial, industrial, institutional and other non-agricultural purposes; (2) those to be devoted to another type of agricultural activity such as livestock, poultry, and fishpond ─ the effect of which is to exempt the land from the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) coverage; (3) those to be converted to non-agricultural use other than that previously authorized; and (4) those reclassified to residential, commercial, industrial, or other non-agricultural uses on or after the effectivity of Republic Act No. 6657 on 15 June 1988 pursuant to Section 20 of Republic Act No. 7160 and other pertinent laws and regulations, and are to be converted to such uses.
On 28 February 2002, the Secretary of Agrarian Reform issued another Administrative Order, i.e., DAR AO No. 01-02, entitled "2002 Comprehensive Rules on Land Use Conversion," which further amended DAR AO No. 07-97 and DAR AO No. 01-99, and repealed all issuances inconsistent therewith. The aforesaid DAR AO No. 01-02 covers all applications for conversion from agricultural to non-agricultural uses or to another agricultural use.
Whether or not DAR AO NO. 01-02, as amended violates the local autonomy of local government units.
No. Department of Agrarian Reform AO No. 01-02, as amended, providing that the reclassification of agricultural lands by LGUs shall be subject to the requirements of land use conversion procedure or that DAR’s approval or clearance must be secured to effect reclassification, did not violate the autonomy of the LGUs.
The power of the LGUs to reclassify agricultural lands is not absolute. The authority of the DAR to approve conversion of agricultural lands covered by Republic Act No. 6657 to non-agricultural uses has been validly recognized by said Section 20 of Republic Act No. 7160 by explicitly providing therein that, "nothing in this section shall be construed as repealing or modifying in any manner the provisions of Republic Act No. 6657."
Nevertheless, emphasis must be given to the fact that DAR’s conversion authority can only be exercised after the effectivity of Republic Act No. 6657 on 15 June 1988. The said date served as the cut-off period for automatic reclassification or rezoning of agricultural lands that no longer require any DAR conversion clearance or authority. Thereafter, reclassification of agricultural lands is already subject to DAR’s conversion authority. Reclassification alone will not suffice to use the agricultural lands for other purposes. Conversion is needed to change the current use of reclassified agricultural lands.