By Ali G. Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – Here’s another good news for the people of war-torn Marawi City which higher authorities brought to fore almost simultaneously with the approval on second reading by the House of Representatives of the long-awaited bill seeking to compensate residents affected in the 2017 five-month battle in the city.
Tips about efforts to subdivide parts of the 6,667-hectare Camp Keithley, a military reservation area in Marawi City, reached lately The Philippine Muslim Today (PMT) news. (The PMT carries a separate news story about the status of House Bill No. 9925 or the Marawi Compensation Bill.)
Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary John Castriciones announced recently that his agency will do its “best” to distribute the government-owned lands in Camp Keithley to farmers starting October.
The land distribution pursues President Duterte’s Executive Order No. 75, which directs concerned government instrumentalities to identify lands owned by the government devoted or suitable for agricultural use for awarding to qualified beneficiaries, according to Castriciones.
“This land is part of their ancestral domain. It should be returned to them,” he said at a recent coordination meeting with various stakeholders of the project.
Sec. Castriciones was referring to Camp Keithley, a former American military base built during the start of the Philippine-American war. On Dec. 23, 1953, then President Elpidio Quirino, via Presidential Proclamation No. 453, converted the 6,667-hectare area, now renamed Camp Amai Pakpak, into a military reserved area, it was learned.
DAR-Region 10 Director Zoraida Macadindang was quoted as announcing that they were already “done with identifying the landholdings for distribution, perimeter surveying, procurement activities and validation as well as documentation and approval of subdivision plans.”
”We are halfway in finishing all the necessary requirements before land distribution, but rest assured we will speed everything up so we can award the lands to the Bangsamoro farmers by October,” she said.
Last May 31, Castriciones, Macadindang and other DAR officials inspected portions of Camp Keithley in Marawi City and adjacent Saguiaran, Piagapo and Marantao towns in Lanao del Sur.
On the same day, Castriciones and his team proceeded to Cagayan de Oro City where he alongside Bangsamoro Agriculture, Fisheries and Agrarian Reform Minister Mohammad Yacob forged a commitment to distribute portions of the camp to resident farmers.
Only last month on May 31, 2021, Bro. John and Mindanao Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Agrarian Reform (MAFAR) Mohammad Yacob led the pledge of commitment held in Cagayan de Oro City to support the distribution of government-owned lands in Camp Keithley Military Reservation.
Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal Adiong, Jr., Mayors Ali Sumandar (Piagapo), Akira Alonto (Marantao), Hafiz Ampa Muti (Saguiaran), Majul Gandamra (Marawi City), and Sultan Ali Mindalano of the Marawi Sultanate League rallied the distribution commitment, according to a DAR website report.
On Thursday, Sept. 2, night, DAR Undersecretary Emily Padilla told a virtual meeting hosted by the Rotary Club echoed the imminent distribution to identified farmers certificates of land ownership awards (CLOAs), each containing a maximum of three hectares.
Padilla, a lawyer, did not disclose the size of Camp Keithley or Camp Amai Pakpak’s portion that has been covered under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), through which CLOAs are given out.
But she said the CARP would cover land with a minimum size of 700 hectares. (AGM)