After the speedy passage of Sin Tax and Reproductive Health Bills last month, President Benigno Aquino has certified as urgent the proposed Senate Bill 3091 or the National Land Use Act (NLUA) and made it as one of the priorities this year.
The House Bill 6545 or the National Land Use and Management Act passed the third and final reading in the House of Representatives and a certain group, Campaign for Land Use Policy Now!, claimed that the bill’s passage in the Senate suffered a setback because of the squabbling of the Senators.
Together with its counterpart, House Bill 6545, they are urging for a speedy passage of the Senate bill, which they claimed to be languishing in the Congress for two decades now. The bill was first filed in the 9th Congress in 1992.
The proposed measure seeks to institute a national land use policy, provide implementing mechanisms, rationalize the utilization, management and development of the country’s land resources, and ensure their optimum use consistent with the principle of sustainable development.
One of the key features of HB 6545 is the creation of a land use policy council tasked to formulate the National Land Use Guidelines and Zoning Standards (NLUGZS). The NLUGZS will serve as a framework for planning and management of land resources at the national and sub-national levels.
Under the bill, land uses are grouped into four – the protection land use, production land use, settlements development, and infrastructure development.
In projecting spatial allocation for the different land uses, the bill provides that areas under protection land use and national parks and strategic agricultural and fisheries and development zones would first be set aside to ensure ecological integrity and promote food security.
The next in priority would be lands or areas for integrated watershed management, socialized housing, fisher folk settlement in coastal areas and waste disposal.
In other words, this proposed bill seeks, among others, to prohibit illegal land conversion into commercial areas.
The reason why this group is supporting NLUA is that they believe the importance of the preservation of the nation’s agricultural land and critical watersheds and they believe that this is a major goal that NLUA will achieve,
They feared that the continued ignorance of the government on the loss of farmlands and water sources due to rapid urbanization and climate change will suffer the country’s population; especially it is projected to hit the 100M mark in 2015.
On the other side, Real Estate developers are worried about its implications, particularly in the group’s objective to solve the housing backlog, which now stands at 3.5 million units. The passage of the law will undermine the country’s economic boom in which the real estate sector is a major growth driver.
According to the Advocates for Responsible and Equitable Land Use Planning, the passage of the bill could negatively impact the Philippine global competitiveness; the ability to provide decent homes for our local workers and OFWs; the dynamic growth of the BPO industry; the confidence that sustains the continuing inflow of OFW remittances; the resurgence of tourism and agribusiness, along with their upstream and downstream industrial linkages; and many other enterprises that are contributing to the vibrancy of our national economy.
Among the concerns of the group, which is composed of CREBA, NREA, OSHDP, PAREB, Philres, and SHDA, includes:
• LGU powers over the proper planning and management of its land use conferred upon it by the Local Government Code have been significantly diluted or virtually abrogated.
• “Agricultural” lands are defined as “Protected Areas” (Section 4fff), placed under the DAR’s jurisdiction and protected from conversion, practically leaving nothing of the land pie to be allocated to settlements, infrastructure, tourism, real estate development and other nonagricultural development.
• Agricultural lands are banned from conversion while they are in the hands of landowners, but may be converted once they are awarded to agrarian beneficiaries (Section 13)
The group urged that while it recognizes the need to ensure food security, any land use policy that will be passed must clearly, fairly and equitably recognize the multiple legitimate use of land.
SHDA, which is a national organization of private subdivision and housing developers, said that some 200,000 to 250,000 houses should be built every year to meet the backlog on houses, which they feared could balloon to 10-20 million in 2020 to 12.5 million in 2030 if the nothing is done on the backlog.
The passage of the law would limit the developer’s options on land to convert into residential communities.
According to the developers’ study in 2012, it showed that from 2001 to 2011, the demand for socialized housing was 1.14 million, but the property sector was only able to supply 479,765 units. Demand for economic housing was even higher at 2.5 million, but the supply was only 541,913 units during the same period.
There was also a backlog in low-cost housing, with demand of 704,406, and available supply of only 242,246 units. On the other hand, medium-cost posted unit surpluses of 250,403 while high-end housing posted at 224,011 units. The said figures did not include the 832,046 households who could not afford to build their own homes.
CREBA stated that developers need to put up 345,941 housing units per year in order to serve the estimated 6.54 million additional demands for 2012 to 2030.
The developers wanted the President and the Congress to hear their side and let their suggestions and amendments are included in the proposed bill. The bill will also slow down the property sector and might affect the economic growth.
With sources from: Philippine Star, Philippine Daily Inquirer, http://www.cooperatives-society.blogspot.com