CREBA backs land use bill to put nat’l dev’t in order

MANILA — The country’s largest organization of key real estate industry players pins its hope and support on a pending national land use bill to put the country’s economic and physical development in order.

Titled National Land Use Act (NLUA), this bill being supported by the Chamber of Real Estate and Builders’ Associations Inc. (CREBA) and pending in both houses of Congress will set the framework for land-use planning involving four major categories of land uses – Protection, Production, Settlements, and Infrastructure.

“A national land use plan has long been needed by this country. And if done correctly, it shall be a key policy reference for all local comprehensive land use and development plans in all sectors, including commercial, industrial, housing, and real estate,” said CREBA national chairman Charlie A. V. Gorayeb.

However, Gorayeb said the NLUA bill should be made to adapt to current laws that had already been used by the business community for important investment decisions and made the basis of projects now under way. Gorayeb was referring to such laws as the RA 7279, or the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992, covering all lands in urban and urbanizable areas; PD 399 limiting the use of strip lands; and RA 7160, or the Local Government Code of 1991, empowering local government units (LGUs) to reclassify agricultural lands when deemed by the DAR as no longer economically feasible for agricultural use, or appraised by the LGU to gain greater economic value in other purposes.

“The NLUA bill must also resolve the uncertainty as to where and what exactly is the extent of the ‘protected lands’ that are banned from conversion,” Gorayeb said.
He noted that the bill strived to identify lands under protection and production despite the still pressing need to properly delineate the agricultural lands under these categories.

Citing an indepth study conducted by CREBA itself, Gorayeb debunked public misperception of a national shortage of agricultural lands purportedly resulting from industrialization and commercialization.

The results of the study showed the agricultural lands accounting for some 12.6 million hectares or 42.72 percent of the country’s total hectarage of 29.4 million. Yet, the built-up or developed areas amounted to only 741,353 hectares or 2.52 percent of the total, with forest accounting for 22.12%, grassland 17.76%, shrubs 11.31%, mangrove 1.04%, marshland 0.45%, fallow 0.02%, barren 0.42%, and inland water 1.63%.

“The study indicates that lands built up or developed for non-agricultural uses – from time immemorial up to Year 2010 – have hardly made a dent in the country’s total agricultural hectareage despite all the government and private infrastructure nationwide.

“Instead, agricultural land area even expanded by 5.4 percent from 2003 to 2010 as forest, shrubs, fallow and barren lands registered small decreases at single-digit level or less. These data confirm that the expansion of commercial, industrial and residential spaces are not the reasons why the country’s agricultural situation lags behind its neighbors,” Gorayeb said.

“Comparatively, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam have bigger total land areas than our archipelagic country, but they all have lesser agricultural hectareage than the Philippines at only 38.75 percent in Thailand, 24 percent in Malaysia, and 28.51 percent in Vietnam.

“What all these data tell us is the need for a rational and wholistic landuse policy that reflects the realities on the ground, covering all areas of landuse, and factoring in all the development requirements of every sector to achieve a well-balanced and stable economy.

“Thus, a very delicate, complicated and economy-sensitive matter such as landuse identification and classification cannot just be delegated to a government agency that has no expertise in any of the four major categories – protection, production, settlements and infrastructure – except probably agrarian reform,” Gorayeb further stressed, apparently referring to DAR.


Pinoy Weekly | August 29, 2015