With a finite land area of 300,000 square kilometers, a population of 107.19 million, and an average annual growth rate of 1.69 percent, the passage of a national land use plan is necessary to plan and manage our land to provide for everyone’s living needs.
This is according to Bahay Party-list first nominee Atty. Naealla Rose M. Bainto-Aguinaldo, who on Wednesday said: “because of poor land use planning and implementation in cities and municipalities given the absence of a national framework, prime agricultural lands and food production areas are converted into residential or commercial/industrial sites or non-agricultural uses.”
“Without a national land use policy, our forests and other protected areas are declared mining sites, and housing sites of informal settlers proliferate in danger zones,” lamented Bainto-Aguinaldo.
“We have conflicting, fragmented land laws and efforts must be made to reconcile these so that our people do not suffer.”
The former undersecretary said the creation of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) through Republic Act No 11201 should be complemented with a national land use policy to help ensure safe settlements for affected communities with access to livelihood.
“We have conflicting, fragmented land laws and efforts must be made to reconcile these so that our people do not suffer,” the lawyer added.
Among these laws are the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, Urban Development and Housing Act, Philippine Mining Act, Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act, Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act, Philippine Fisheries Code, and the Biofuels Act.
The passage of the National Land Use Act (NLUA) into law has been elusive for more than two decades, notwithstanding the prioritization or certification as urgent by four Philippine presidents since the bill was first filed in the 9th Congress.
“It’s time to get the NLUA out of the legislative limbo it has been stuck in for years.”
In his third State of the Nation Address in 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte appealed to Congress to fast-track the enactment of a new land use policy.
“Many of our rural and urban communities risk living in dangerous places— sometimes forced by their circumstances—to be near where economic opportunities thrive or are possible. This is especially true for urban poor communities who live in danger zones and fisherfolk who live in coastal communities despite the many dangers inherent in living in such places,” explained Bainto-Aguinaldo.
Based on various studies, policies that seek to move them away from danger’s way––such as the declaration of no-build zones along coastal areas following Typhoon Yolanda in 2013––may do more harm than good. The absence of a national land use policy has allowed such “blanket measures” to be enforced without considering the social and economic impact to the supposed beneficiaries, said the Batangas native.
Bainto-Aguinaldo reiterated that a NLUA “would, for example, mandate the identification of areas within coastal zones that are safe for settlements of fisherfolk. It would ensure that areas accessible to the sea and identified as fisherfolk settlement and housing will also not be part of any protected land use area for allocation to the traditional fisherfolk and holders of stewardship lease contracts or titles to ancestral domains or any coastal resource management initiatives.”
“It’s time to get the NLUA out of the legislative limbo it has been stuck in for years. If given a chance to serve in Congress, passing the NLUA will be a top priority of Bahay.”