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Case Digest: CREBA vs Secretary of Agrarian Reform, G.R. No. 183409, Jun 18, 2010, 621 SCRA 295 (2010)
CREBA vs Secretary of Agrarian Reform
G.R. No. 183409, Jun 18, 2010, 621 SCRA 295 (2010)
Petitioner, CREBA is the umbrella organization of some 3,500 private corporations, partnerships, single proprietorship and individuals directly or indirectly involved in land and housing development, building and infrastructure construction, materials production and supply, and services in the various related fields of engineering, architecture, community planning and development financing.
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"2002 Comprehensive Rules on Land Use Conversion," which further amended DAR AO No. 07-97 and DAR AO No. 01-99, and repealed all issuances inconsistent therewith.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.Thereafter, on 2 August 2007, the Secretary of Agrarian Reform amended certain provisions of DAR AO No. 01-02 by formulating DAR AO No. 05-07, particularly addressing land conversion in time of exigencies and calamities.
To address the unabated conversion of prime agricultural lands for real estate development, the Secretary of Agrarian Reform further issued Memorandum No. 88 on 15 April 2008, which temporarily suspended the processing and approval of all land use conversion applications.
Whether or not DAR AO No. 01-02, as amended, was made in violation of Section 65 of Republic Act No. 6657, as it covers even those non-awarded lands and reclassified lands by the LGUs or by way of Presidential Proclamations on or after 15 June 1988.
No. Section 65 of RA 6657 provides that “After the lapse of five (5) years from its award, when the land ceases to be economically feasible and sound for agricultural purposes, or the locality has become urbanized and the land will have a greater economic value for residential, commercial or industrial purposes, the DAR, upon application of the beneficiary or the landowner, with due notice to the affected parties, and subject to existing laws, may authorize the reclassification or conversion of the land and its disposition: Provided, That the beneficiary shall have fully paid his obligation.”
Conversion and reclassification differ from each other. Conversion is the act of changing the current use of a piece of agricultural land into some other use as approved by the DAR while reclassification is the act of specifying how agricultural lands shall be utilized for non-agricultural uses such as residential, industrial, and commercial, as embodied in the land use plan, subject to the requirements and procedures for land use conversion. In view thereof, a mere reclassification of an agricultural land does not automatically allow a landowner to change its use. He has to undergo the process of conversion before he is permitted to use the agricultural land for other purposes.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.