Bill vs conversion of irrigated, irrigable landholdings closer to becoming law

February 22, 2018 - 12:04 PM
A farmer tends his ricefield in Daraga, Albay (File photo by Romeo Ranoco, Reuters)

MANILA, Philippines — The proposed measure prohibiting the conversion of irrigated and irrigable landholdings is closer to becoming a law as the lower chamber recently passed on third and final reading House Bill No. 7115.

Voting 188-0 with no abstention, lawmakers last Tuesday, Feb. 20, passed the bill that seeks ensure the country’s food security by amending some provisions in Republic Act. No. 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988.

“The obligation of the state is to ensure food security and promote social justice. Prime agricultural lands as well as irrigated or irrigable lands have been adversely affected by rampant and unchecked conversions,” said Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

“These have led to disturbing threat not only against our country’s food security, but to the whole agrarian reform program as well,” he added.

As defined by the bill, irrigated lands are “lands serviced by natural irrigation or irrigation facilities, as delineated by the Department of Agriculture (DA) or the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) which includes lands where water is not readily available as existing irrigation facilities need rehabilitation or upgrading, or where irrigation water is not available year-round.”

As to irrigable lands, these are “lands suitable for the conduct of agricultural activities which require irrigation and display physical features justifying the operation of an irrigation system.”

The bill provides that actual physical or legal conversion or causing the physical or legal conversion of irrigated and irrigable lands are committed by the following:

1. Any person who directly and indirectly participates in the conversion of irrigated and irrigable land

2. Any person who directly or indirectly induces the landowner or farmworker in the conversion of irrigated and irrigable land

3. Any person who applies for and facilitates the application for conversion

4. Any person who facilitates the application and issuance of clearances and other documents necessary for conversion

5. Any person who approves and cause for the approval of the application for conversion

6. Any person who directly and indirectly benefited from the conversion

The bill seeks to amend Section 74 of R.A. 6657 so that any person who knowingly or willfully violates the provisions of the Act shall be punished by imprisonment of one month to three years or a fine of P1,000 to P15,000, or both, at the discretion of the court.

Meanwhile, violators of Section 73, subparagraphs (c), (d), (e), (i), and (j) of R.A. 6657, as amended, shall face imprisonment of six years and one day to 12 years, or pay the fine of P200,000 to P1,000,000, or both, at the discretion of the court.

If the offender is a public officer, he shall suffer the additional penalties of removal from office and perpetual absolute disqualification to hold public office, as provided in the bill.