Among the many bills pending in the Senate which directly impact housing and real estate development are several versions instituting a National Land Use Policy.
The Constitution mandates that all sectors and all regions of the country should be given optimum opportunity to develop. Under this mandate is the principle of equitable land access for all sectors premised on the judicious allocation of lands to achieve well-balanced socio-economic development that would ensure prosperity for the greatest number.
In several occasions, we have had the opportunity to articulate our position on the issue. As stakeholders in the housing and real estate industry, we recognize the changing need of the agriculture sector, the growing need for decent and affordable human settlements, as well as the need to protect areas for specific purposes, among them timber and forest lands, and priority areas for tourism development. All these are necessary components of human existence.
The property sector has never been against the allocation of the best and most productive lands for agricultural purposes to provide food security for our people. However, modern times dictate that mere allocation of land is not enough. We need to apply modern technology in food production which we lack.
We in CREBA recognize the need for a clear, consistent and socially acceptable land use policy that will remove the inconsistency brought about by conflicting laws on land utilization and resolve conflicts due to competing land use. To name a few, we cite the following existing laws dealing with land use.
Republic Act No. 7279 classifies all cities regardless of their population density and municipalities with a population density of at least five hundred (500) persons per square kilometer as “urban areas” and reserves them for human settlement and other non-agricultural uses.
Republic Act 7916 identifies certain areas as ecozones under the jurisdiction of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) and reserves them for agro-industrial, industrial, tourist/recreational, commercial, and other non-agricultural uses.
Republic Act 8435 identifies certain areas as “Strategic Agriculture and Fisheries Development Zones” (SAFDZ) which are set aside for agricultural development. Republic Act 6657 specifies the lands which are to be used for agrarian reform purposes.
Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code confers upon LGUs the authority and responsibility to determine land use in their localities through their zoning powers. The DENR charter provides it exclusive jurisdiction over lands of the public domain as well as the power to implement laws intended for environmental protection.
These are just some of the laws which make available land on which to build homes for millions of underprivileged homeless families and to establish commerce and industry that will provide jobs and income opportunities.
There is no need for a new legislation since the goals sought to be attained -food security, environmental protection, agrarian reform, urban land reform, agricultural development, industrial development, and the like -have already been addressed by the legislature under various existing laws. Similarly, there is no dearth of laws to regulate and optimize land use. All that is necessary is simply the proper application and implementation of these existing laws.
During the high-level dialogue and sharing of international experiences on land use policy held July, German professor Dr. Holger Magel cited the United Nations model on sustainable development which involves the inevitable inter-play of environmental protection, economic development and the concept of social equity and fairness. The fulfillment of the basic functions for human existence decides about the quality of life of individuals.
To be socially acceptable therefore, a land use policy must treat equally the Constitutional mandates of undertaking a just distribution of agricultural lands, and providing affordable and decent housing and basic services to underprivileged and homeless citizens. The interests of a nation and its citizens require the highest and best use of the land and the widest distribution of land ownership.
It cannot be gainsaid that the housing industry is of vital importance to our country’s future. It is a key sector of our economy that addresses not only the problem of homelessness but provides millions of jobs to the unemployed and billions of revenues to government.