As the 16th Congress opened earlier this year, various versions of the national land use bill were filed in both houses of the legislature.
In the Lower House, it has been filed as House Bill No. 108 by Rep. Bag-Ao and House Bill 3122 by Rep. Quimbo, among others. Counterpart Senate Bills have been filed as Senate Bill No. 7 by Sen. Legarda, Senate Bill No. 63 by Sen. Honasan and Senate Bill No. 150 by Sen. Cayetano.
The Chamber of Real Estate & Builders’ Associations, Inc. (CREBA) views that while the bill is supposedly designed to “harmonize the reasonable claims of all those who hold interest in the land” and provide for a “rational and just allocation of the country’s land resources”, the whole tenor of the proposed law neither harmonizes nor justly allocates the country’s lands, but is so crafted to promote the interest only of the agricultural sector.
The Chamber has articulated time and again, most particularly in the 15th Congress that we do not oppose the bill’s pro-agriculture intention. But we strongly believe that a national policy for land use must be based on the principles of fairness and equity and must not be done hastily at the expense of the rest of the nation.
A common feature of the various bills is a provision that puts to fore a “Framework for Land Use Planning” under which there shall be four major categories of land uses for planning purposes, such as Protection Land Use; Production Land Use; Settlements; and Infrastructure.
As crafted, the bill clearly identifies and sets aside lands under Protection and Production Land Uses by virtue of existing laws. However, no such clear definition was provided for lands set aside for settlements/housing purposes when in fact this has been clearly identified by various existing laws.
Major uses under the settlements development category should therefore include all lands already classified and/or set aside for housing and other related purposes under the following:
- RA 7279 or the Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA) of 1992, the coverage of which are all lands in urban and urbanizable areas, including existing areas for priority development sites, and in other areas that may be identified by the local government units as suitable for socialized housing;
- PD 399 which limits the use of striplands to human settlement sites, land reform, relocation of squatters from congested urban areas, tourism development, agro-industrial estates, environmental protection and improvement, infrastructure and other vital projects to support the socio-economic development program of the country;
- RA 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991 which confers upon the LGUs the primary authority and responsibility to determine land use in their respective localities, through their zoning power, thereby authorizing them to reclassify agricultural lands. Such reclassification is allowed by law: (1) when the land ceases to be economically feasible and sound for agricultural purposes as determined by the Department of Agriculture or (2) where the land shall have substantially greater economic value for residential, commercial, or industrial purposes, as determined by the sanggunian concerned, subject to certain percentage limits.
The private land sector is open to arriving at a win-win solution with all the other sectors which will be undoubtedly affected once the NLUA bill is passed into law.
Our country certainly needs a national land use act that shall be an important and indispensable policy reference for all local comprehensive land use plans as well as project development plans in all sectors, including housing and real estate.
Published in the Manila Bulletin October 2013