THE National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said it hopes to complete a final draft of legislation that will be proposed as the National Land Use Act within the year, although its eventual form will depend on further input from the various Cabinet members.
“Within the year, we’re hoping,” NEDA Undersecretary for Regional Development Adoracion M. Navarro told reporters on the sidelines of the National Land Use Act for Food Security forum Tuesday in Quezon City.
“We are targeting (end of the year) but we’re not sure kung makukuha namin lahat ng (if we can obtain) endorsements (of the) cabinet clusters,” he added.
The National Land Use Act has been in the works since 1994, during the administration of President Fidel V. Ramos. The legislation was proposed as Senate Bill No. 1522 during the 17th Congress, when it was billed as a “policy for the rational, holistic, and just allocation, utilization, management and development of our land resources.”
In 2017, it made it through the House as House Bill 5240, with five versions of the bill presented in the Senate, where no public hearings were held.
Ms. Navarro said that out of the six cabinet clusters, NEDA has secured the endorsements of the Climate Change Adaptation, Mitigation and Disaster Risk Reduction cluster, and the Human Development and Poverty Reduction cluster.
It has yet to secure endorsements from the Economic Development cluster, Security, Justice and Peace cluster, Participatory Governance cluster, and the Infrastructure cluster.
Currently, land use is regulated by local governments under the authority granted by Section 20 of Republic Act (RA) 7160, or the Local Government Code of 1991, and the Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) No. 54-1995.
These give a city or municipality the authority to reclassify agricultural land when it is considered unfit for agricultural use. The limits of reclassification are 15% of total land area for highly urbanized and independent component cities; 10% for component cities and first to third class municipalities; and 5% for fourth to sixth class municipalities.
“It’s been 20 years… We hope that understanding would push us towards this direction,” Patrick M. Velez, a partnership expert for parliamentary alliances with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, told reporters after the forum.
FAO Philippines launched the FAO Legislative Advisory Group-Philippines (FLAG-PH) in January 2018 to help ensure food security and adequate nutrition for the Philippines.
Mr. Velez said the issue of land use is central in his main advocacy of food security.
“It’s a prime concern for everyone. As FAO, we also understand the need for direction on a specific land use. We’re also pushing for a food security framework kasi wala tayo nito (because we do not have this). We get lost in the passage of several other laws na nawawala yung ating (that we lose) attention on the basics,” he said.
“The National Land Use Act will give you a framework on how to address the use of limited resources such as land,” he added.
He also said that the passage of the legislation will provide the government with a baseline estimate of how much land can be allocated for food production, which the Philippines does not have.
“It’s a balance of different forces. You have your business sector, your agriculture sector, and right now malakas yung business sector (the business sector is strong)… but you have to understand the Land Use Act does not only speak of agriculture or food security,” Mr. Velez said.
“Government right now is trying very hard to answer all of these questions but in the absence of a law that provides you a direction medyo mahirap sya (it quite difficult). The framework will also be important,” he noted. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang