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Lack of ‘common ground’ hinders passage of land use bill – solon

The bill seeking a national law on land use has been bogged down by differing ideas from various stakeholders despite being a priority measure by the Marcos administration.

“There are different ideas from different sectors that are not in harmony with everybody. We need to have a common ground. Everybody should have an agreement kung ano talaga yung dapat ilagay,” said Rep. Francisco Matugas II, chairperson of  the House Special Committee on Land Use, in a chance interview with GMA News Online during the National Land Use Summit last May 15 sponsored by the University of the Philippines Center for Policy and Executive Development.

Matugas, who filed the bill on the proposed National Land Use law at the lower chamber, said that different sectors wanted to have inputs on the final copy of the measure.

If enacted into law, the National Land Use Act would provide a framework on proper utilization and management of land resources in the country.

The bill would also create the National Land Use Commission (NLUC) under the Office of the President, the highest policy making body that would handle the management and planning of land use, and resolve land use policy conflicts.

For instance, Matugas said that land developers want a less restrictive provision when it comes to converting agricultural lands for commercial purposes.

According to the Senate version filed by Risa Hontiveros, the bill states that “prime agricultural lands shall be maintained, managed, and protected for agricultural purposes and shall not be subjected to any form of conversion or reclassification.”

CREBA's stand

While it supports the proposed measure, the Chamber of Real Estate & Builders’ Association, Inc. maintained that some provisions relative to agricultural lands should be reconsidered.

“The National Land Use Act’s provisions pertaining to agricultural lands would severely restrict the allocation and use of these lands for various vital non-agricultural or non-agrarian purposes,” said CREBA vice president Demetrio Posadas during the summit.

CREBA said it wants the bill to properly define agricultural lands, allow NLUC to determine which areas would be eligible for conversion, and provide specific parameters and conditions for the exercise of conversion authority.

Urgency

Meanwhile, other government agencies also expressed support for the immediate passage of the proposed measure.

“The NLUA’s distinct feature is that It harmonizes these various policies to address competing uses of the country’s limited land resources in order to support food security, settlements development, industrial development and other sectors without compromising safety and environment safety,” said National Economic and Development Authority Undersecretary Carlos Bernardo Abad Santos.

On the other hand, the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources said that the country is already behind with the implementation of a national land use law.

“Our population is reaching 30 million, yet our land is not growing. Our estimated land is about 30 million hectares. So can you imagine the land-man ratio from 1990 up to today?” said DENR-Land Management Bureau chief Alex Pascua.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has identified the National Land Use Act as one of the priorities of his administration’s legislative agenda during his first State of the Nation Address in 2022.

The bill was approved on third reading at the House of Representatives in May 2023. However, it remains pending at the committee level at the Senate.

Excerpted from news item by VINCE ANGELO FERRERAS, GMA Integrated News

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