A NATIONAL land use measure is expected to face resistance from local governments because it seeks to take away local powers and give them to a central authority, Senator Cynthia A. Villar said.

“Land use is determined by the local government. Now, they want to centralize it. Who will remove it from the local government to centralize? You are inviting the ire of all the mayors in the Philippines. That’s their power,” she told reporters in a chance interview.

Mas marami nga silang hinihingi na ibalik sa local government (local officials want a lot more powers to be returned to them)… Now we’re going to centralize it? I don’t want to do that,” she added.

A national land use measure has been stuck in Congress for years, even after it was certified as urgent by former President Benigno S.C. Aquino III. President Rodrigo R. Duterte also brought up the issue of land use in his last three State of the Nation Addresses (SONAs).

In his most recent SONA on Monday, Mr. Duterte said that the law should be passed within the year.

The proposed National Land Use Act, or Senate Bill No. 1522, which dates from the Second Session of the 17th Congress, aims to “provide a policy for the rational, holistic, and just allocation, utilization, management and development of our land resources.”

It calls for a National Land Use Commission to create, update, and ensure the implementation of the National Framework Plan, which will be the basis for land use and physical development policy.

The House version, House Bill (HB) No. 5240, or the proposed National Land Use and Management Act of the Philippines, backs the creation of the National Land Use Policy Council (NLUPC). It will be responsible for the execution of the responsibilities under the act, and take on the function of the National Economic Development Authority National Land Use Committee (NB-NLUC), which will then be abolished.

Currently, land use is undertaken by local government units, who are authorized by Section 20 of Republic Act (RA) 7160, or the Local Government Code of 1991, and the Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) No. 54-1995.

They give a city or municipality the power to reclassify agricultural land after determining that the land is not suited for agricultural purposes, or if it has more value as a residential, commercial, or industrial site.

Reclassification is limited to certain levels depending on the category of local government. Highly urbanized and independent component cities can reclassify about 15% of their land; component cities and first to third class municipalities 10%; and fourth to sixth-class municipalities 5%. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang