President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed Department of Agrarian Reform Undersecretary Bernie Cruz as the new DAR secretary.
The DAR announced the appointment of Cruz in a press statement on Saturday, October 30. He replaces John Castriciones who resigned to run for senator in the 2022 elections.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque also confirmed Cruz’s appointment as acting secretary on Saturday afternoon.
“We are confident that Acting Secretary Cruz will continue to oversee the completion of DAR’s programs and projects in the remaining months of the current government,” Roque said in a statement.
Cruz said that under his leadership, he will seek Congress approval for funds for the Mega Farm project, which the DAR described as a “a cluster of contiguous farms that are consolidated to form a sizeable plantation capable of producing large volumes of farm products to meet the demands of institutional and commercial buyers and is open to different high-value cash crops.”
“It will be beneficial for individual farmers who now own land to enter into commercial and agri-venture arrangements so that they can enter into supply contracts. We hope to shift them away from subsistence farming – or merely planting and harvesting so they have something to eat – towards trade and product exports,” Cruz said.
He said that the agency would also seek to speed up the disposal of the remaining undistributed land to farmer-beneficiaries.
Cruz said that the government still has a balance of more than 700,000 hectares of agricultural lands – “including private lands, which are mostly problematic landholdings, and idle public lands suitable for agriculture,” the DAR said.
“If these lands were awarded to qualified and deserving ARBs, the country would have a sustainable agricultural sector that would contribute in ensuring food security,” Cruz said. – Rappler.com