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From the Chairman

Charlie A.V. Gorayeb

Charlie A.V. Gorayeb

Chairman of the Board, CREBA Chairman, CREBA Advocacy & Legislative Affairs Committee Honorary Consul General, Republic of Djibouti

NO to proposed moratorium on land conversion

CREBA supports the position of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) rejecting the impending imposition of a 2-year moratorium on conversion of agricultural lands for human settlements and other non-agricultural uses. 

NEDA and HUDCC have said that a “blanket” moratorium is detrimental to the economy and would result to a slow-down in the delivery of housing units, particularly to the millions of homeless poor.

CREBA hopes that the national government will reconsider the proposal as a moratorium alone is “not the cure-all” to failed efforts of past administrations to implement an effective agrarian reform system and achieve optimum agricultural production.

There is no argument that prime agricultural lands must be preserved for food security. But what we need is to apply modern farming technology, more infrastructure and better government support for farmers to make the most out of the land that they till.

CREBA fears that the moratorium will bring efforts to deliver decent and affordable homes to at least 5.5 million homeless families to a standstill. Jobs created by housing construction are at stake; substantial taxes and other revenues from related business activities will be lost; economic pump-priming effects will be suppressed. Limited space will result to urban congestion as tension between agricultural land use and rapid urbanization escalates.

Republic Act 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law recognizes that under certain conditions, some agricultural lands are better reserved for non-agri uses, such as when the land ceases to be economically feasible for agriculture or locality has become highly urbanized and the land will have a greater economic value for other purposes.

Instead, CREBA calls for the passage of the proposed national land use act (NLUA) filed in Congress to put the country’s economic and physical development in order by setting 4 major categories of land uses for planning purposes – Protection, Production, Settlements, and Infrastructure.

An equitable national land use plan has long been needed by this country to be a key policy reference for all local comprehensive land use and development plans in all sectors, including housing and real estate.

The bill is the third in CREBA’s 5-point agenda for housing, a package of inter-related programs and proposed legislative measures which targets the production of 500,000 units a year or 10 million homes in 20 years in pursuit of its long-term vision towards “a home for every Filipino.”

A CREBA-led study validated by the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) has debunked the lingering misconception that the real estate sector is the “culprit” for food shortage resulting from supposed “indiscriminate” or “rampant” conversion of lands.

It showed that agricultural lands account for some 12.5 million hectares or 42.72 percent of the country’s total hectarage of 29.5 million.  Yet, the built-up or developed areas – including all roads – amounted to only 741,353 hectares or just 2.52 percent of the total. 

Lands built up or developed for non-agricultural uses – from time immemorial up to Year 2010 – hardly made a dent in the country’s total agricultural hectareage despite all government and private infrastructure nationwide. Instead, agricultural land area even expanded by 5.4 percent from 2003 to 2010

These data confirm that conversion and development are not the reasons why the country’s agricultural situation lags behind its rice-exporting neighbors. 

Comparatively, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam have bigger total land areas than our archipelagic country, but they all have lesser agricultural hectareage than the Philippines at only 38.75 percent in Thailand, 24 percent in Malaysia, and 28.51 percent in Vietnam.

We need a rational and holistic land use policy that reflects the realities on the ground, covering all areas of land use, and factoring in all the development requirements of every sector to achieve a well-balanced and stable economy.

Published in the Manila Bulletin November 2016

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