DOJ OPINION NO. 052, s. 1996
May 14, 1996
Deputy Director-General Isagani B. Valdellon
National Economic and Development Authority
NEDA sa Pasig, Amber Avenue
S i r :
This has reference to your request for opinion on whether or not Administrative Order No. 20 (1992) of the Office of the President supersedes this Department's Opinion No. 44, s. 1990.
In said Opinion, we stated that "with respect to conversions of agricultural lands covered by R.A. No. 6657 to non-agricultural uses, the authority of DAR to approve such conversions may be exercised from the date of the law's effectivity on June 15, 1988." On the other hand, A.O. No. 20 issued on December 7, 1992 by the Office of the President has directed the observance by all agencies and local government units (LGUs) concerned of the interim guidelines on agricultural land use conversion specifically the following:
"1. All agricultural lands classified hereunder shall not be subject to and non-negotiable for conversion:
(a) All irrigated lands where water is available to support rice and other crop production, and all irrigated lands where water is not available for rice and other crop production but are within areas programmed for irrigation facility rehabilitation by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and National Irrigation Administration (NIA); and
(b) All irrigable lands already covered by irrigation projects with firm funding commitments at the time of the application for land use conversion.
2. All agricultural lands other than those referred hereunder as non-negotiable for conversion may be converted only upon strict compliance with existing laws, rules and regulations."
The request, as we see it, presupposes that a conflict exists between this Department's Opinion No. 44, s. 1990 and A.O. No. 20 of the President. We believe, however, that no conflict exists between the subject DOJ opinion and Presidential issuance and that both can stand side by side.
It should be stressed that DOJ Opinion No. 44, s. 1990 upholds DAR's general authority under the CARL (R.A. No. 6657) to approve or disapprove applications for conversion of agricultural lands to non-agricultural uses from and after the effectivity of the CARL on June 15, 1988. On the other hand, A.O. No. 20 provides for the interim guidelines governing land conversions under Section 20 of the Local Government Code of 1991 (R.A. No. 7160) which authorizes LGUs to reclassify agricultural lands within their respective territorial jurisdictions and to provide for their use or disposition under certain conditions.
The DOJ opinion still holds true, that is, that DAR exercises authority over land conversion cases under the CARL. However, in view of Section 20 of the Local Government Code of 1991 which devolved to LGUs the authority to reclassify agricultural lands to non-agricultural uses in certain cases, DAR's land conversion authority under the CARL will have to be exercised in conjunction with the devolved power of LGUs under said Section 20. This is clear from the provisions of Section 4 of Memorandum Order No. 54 dated June 8, 1993 which provides:
"SEC. 4. Use of the comprehensive land use plans and ordinances as primary reference documents in land use conversions. — Pursuant to RA 6657 and EO 129-A, actions on applications for land use conversions on individual landholdings shall remain as the responsibility of DAR, which shall utilize as its primary reference documents the comprehensive land use plans and accompanying ordinance passed upon and approved by the LGUs concerned, together with the National Land Use Policy."
Memorandum Order No. 54 which prescribes the implementing guidelines for Section 20 of R.A. No. 7160, supersedes A.O. No. 20. Enclosed is a copy of said Memorandum Order No. 54 for ready reference.
Very truly Yours,
TEOFISTO T. GUINGONA, JR.