Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Manila SECOND DIVISION G.R. No. 174588 December 11, 2013 DAV AO NEW TOWN DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, Petitioner, vs. SPOUSES GLORIA ESPINO SALIGA and CESAR SALIGA, and SPOUSES DEMETRIO EHARA and ROBERTA SUGUE EHARA, Respondents.

The subject property had been
reclassified as non-agricultural prior
to June 15, 1988; hence, they are no
longer covered by R.A. No. 6657
At the core of the controversy is the questioned reclassification of the property to non-agricultural uses. This issue is intertwined with and on which depends the resolution of the issue concerning the claimed agricultural leasehold relationship.
In reversing the PARAD and holding that the property was still agricultural, the DARAB considered the Comprehensive Development Plan (approved by the HSRC through Board Resolution R-39-4 dated July 31, 1980) and Davao City Ordinance No. 363, series of 1982 (adopting the Comprehensive Development Plan) as invalid reclassification measures. It gave as reason the absence of the requisite certification from the HLURB and the approval of the DAR. In the alternative, and citing P.D. No. 27, in relation with R.A. No. 6657, as basis, the DARAB considered the alleged reclassification ineffective so as to free the property from the legal effects of P.D. No. 27 that deemed it taken under the government’s operation land transfer (OLT) program as of October 21, 1972.
We differ from, and cannot accept, the DARAB’s position.
We hold that the property had been reclassified to non-agricultural uses and was, therefore, already outside the coverage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) after it took effect on July 15, 1988.
1. Power of the local government units to
reclassify lands from agricultural to nonagricultural
uses; the DAR approval is not
required
Indubitably, the City Council of Davao City has the authority to adopt zoning resolutions and ordinances. Under Section 3 of R.A. No. 226430 (the then governing Local Government Code), municipal and/or city officials are specifically empowered to "adopt zoning and subdivision ordinances or regulations in consultation with the National Planning Commission."31
In Pasong Bayabas Farmers Asso., Inc. v. Court of Appeals,32 the Court held that this power of the local government units to reclassify or convert lands to non-agricultural uses is not subject to the approval of the DAR.33 There, the Court affirmed the authority of the Municipal Council of Carmona to issue a zoning classification and to reclassify the property in dispute from agricultural to residential through the Council’s Kapasiyahang Bilang 30, as approved by the HSRC.
In the subsequent case of Junio v. Secretary Garilao,34 this Court clarified, once and for all, that "with respect to areas classified and identified as zonal areas not for agricultural uses, like those approved by the HSRC before the effectivity of RA 6657 on June 15, 1988, the DAR’s clearance is no longer necessary for conversion."35 The Court in that case declared the disputed landholding as validly reclassified from agricultural to residential pursuant to Resolution No. 5153-A of the City Council of Bacolod.
Citing the cases of Pasong Bayabas Farmers Asso., Inc. and Junio, this Court arrived at significantly similar ruling in the case of Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association (ARBA) v. Nicolas.36
Based on these considerations, we hold that the property had been validly reclassified as non-agricultural land prior to June 15, 1988. We note the following facts established in the records that support this conclusion: (1) the Davao City Planning and Development Board prepared the Comprehensive Development Plan for the year 1979-2000 in order to provide for a comprehensive zoning plan for Davao City; (2) the HSRC approved this Comprehensive Development Plan through Board Resolution R-39-4 dated July 31, 1980; (3) the HLURB confirmed the approval per the certification issued on April 26, 2006;37 (4) the City Council of Davao City adopted the Comprehensive Development Plan through its Resolution No. 894 and City Ordinance No. 363, series of 1982;38 (5) the Office of the City Planning and Development Coordinator, Office of the Zoning Administrator expressly certified on June 15, 1995 that per City Ordinance No. 363, series of 1982 as amended by S.P. Resolution No. 2843, Ordinance No. 561, series of 1992, the property (located in barangay Catalunan Pequeño) is within an "urban/urbanizing" zone;39 (6) the Office of the City Agriculturist confirmed the above classification and further stated that the property is not classified as prime agricultural land and is not irrigated nor covered by an irrigation project as certified by the National Irrigation Administration, per the certification issued on December 4, 1998;40 and (7) the HLURB, per certification dated May 2, 1996,41 quoted the April 8, 1996 certification issued by the Office of the City Planning and Development Coordinator stating that "the Mintal District which includes barangay Catalunan Pequeño, is identified as one of the ‘urbaning [sic] district centers and priority areas and for development and investments’ in Davao City."

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