by Atty. Allan Barcena
In 2006, I wrote an article in The Mediator entitled, “Challenges and Opportunities for ADR in Public Land Disputes”. In the article, I gave an overview of the status of the land cases in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) ENR and how ADR can help resolve these cases more effectively and efficiently.
I concluded the article with the following: “There is a need to implement a training program for DENR personnel in the field offices who are at the forefront of handling land claims and conflict cases. There is also the urgent need to formulate specific guidelines for the use of ADR in resolving land disputes in order to facilitate the titling program of the government.”
Status of ADR in the DENR
Past forward to the present time, ADR has been mainstreamed and widely used in the DENR particularly in the land management sector. It has succeeded in formulating relevant guidelines on ADR, implemented training programs and created a database system to monitor the status of ADR cases in the regional offices.
The DENR was one of the government agencies to adopt ADR. Pursuant to the ADR Law of 2004, the DENR formulated DAO No. 2005-18 instituting the adoption of ADR in resolving conflicts pertaining management and utilization of natural resources. The ADR system was institutionalized and mainstreamed in the land sector through the Land Management Bureau (LMB). Through the LMB, the DENR came up with several guidelines on the application of ADR in the resolution of land disputes. These include, among others:
1. DAO 2016-30: Guidelines on the Conduct of Alternative Dispute Resolution in Land Management and Disposition
2. DAO 2016-31: Procedures in the Investigation and Resolution of Land Claims and Conflicts Cases
3. DAO 2021-01: Guidelines on the Conduct of Virtual Alternative Dispute Resolution Proceedings in the Resolution of Land Claims and Conflicts.
The last guidelines was formulated in the context of COVID-19, where virtual proceedings were conducted. This allowed the parties to participate virtually and submit their documents online.
Based on the latest DENR report (January, 2023), the agency has resolved at least 43 % or 606 of the total 1,419 land cases under the ADR system since 2019. According to LMB Director Emy Talabis, 43% is “quite an accomplishment and a big leap from the almost zero settlement we had before the adoption of the ADR mechanism”. The land cases involve ownership issues, boundary disputes, transfer of rights, land valuation, among others. Under court litigation or judicial process, these cases would last for several years while under ADR, it takes 1-2 years on average to resolve the disputes.
Part of the success of ADR in the land sector was the conduct of relevant trainings by the DENR to equip its officers to effectively handle and resolve land cases under the ADR system. In February 2023, MEDNET partnered with the LMB (through the support of GIZ) in providing further training to the ADR Officers (ADROs). The MEDNET modules consisted of Nonviolent Communication, Conflict Mapping, Mediations Approaches and Techniques and Healing and Reconciliation. Based on the feedback of the participants, these modules are relevant and useful in their ADR practice. To date there are 346 ADROs in the different regional offices. Every year, the DENR selects the top performing ADRO based on cases resolved.
ADR has been proven to be very effective in resolving land disputes due to the active participation of the parties and amicable settlement of the issues. It is not only cheaper compared to court litigation but also faster. The system and its procedures empower the parties to resolve their disputes and preserve their relationships. This is why in MEDNET, we call it EDRMP (Empowering Dispute Resolution Management Processes). We congratulate the DENR, particularly the LMB for spearheading the use of ADR. We look forward to partnering with the LMB in providing additional trainings and capacity building to make ADR a tool in the speedy and peaceful disposition of land cases in the Philippines.