Wednesday, July 27, 2011

National land use policy pushed
By Marianne V. Go (The Philippine Star) Updated July 28, 2011 12:00 AM Comments (0) View comments

MANILA, Philippines - Passage of a national land use policy is being urged by multi-sectoral groups as the 15th Congress begins.

Following a meeting of the Working Group on Sustainable Rural Development of the Philippine Development Forum yesterday at the Mandarin Hotel, Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri acknowledged that the passage of a National Land Use Act (NLUA) would be “difficult, but not impossible.”

However, he remains optimistic that with the filing of such a measure during the second regular session of the 15th Congress there is a good chance that the bill will be tackled.

He said Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile has prioritized the passage of the NALUA during the current second regular session of the 15th Congress.

Zubiri pointed out that “ticklish” issues that would likely be raised during the discussion of the bill would include delineation of “protection areas, production areas and settlement areas.”

Agriculture Undersecretary Segfredo R. Serrano likewise supports the passage of the NLUA to be able to harmonize and unify policies on protection, production and settlement areas.

Serrano admitted that the failure of some plans of the governmen to take off has been due to the lack of a comprehensive land use plan.

Dr. Walter Salzer, co-convenor of the PDF-WGRD, also noted the “discord” that has hampered development in the Philippines.

Passage and adoption of a comprehensive, harmonized and orderly land use plan law would help promote faster development, he pointed out.

Dr. Salzer cited the chaotic number of laws governing land use and the need for one single organization to implement land use utilization instead of the current overlapping mandate of several agencies.

The German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), through its Environment and Rural Development (EnRD) program is helping the the national and local government units to use participatory land use- development planning (PLUP) to draw a roadmap for the development of their respective barangays.

Land use development planning aims to make the communities understand the various elements such as their geography, environment and climate change in allocating areas for development as production zones, free areas, residential, hazard areas, recreation and public areas.

The lack of a practical land use development plan in the Philippines, according to former Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary and now environmental planner Elmer Mercado, has already shown haphazard development in urban and rural areas -- with competing allocations for industrial, mining, residential and protective areas.

With the effects of past destructive developments such as clear-cut logging and climate change now resulting in increasing flooding, landslides and related disasters, Mercado stressed, the need for land use planning becomes more urgent for the future.

The GIZ’s model aims to encourage land use planning from the ground up, rather than coming from the top going down.

However, for land use planning to be adopted nationwide, Mercado stressed the need for Congress to finally act and pass a National Land Use Act (NLUA) which has been languishing in the legislative mill for several years now.

The NLUA bill in Congress, according to Mercado, has only two more years to be acted upon by the current Congress before it ends and a new bill would again have to be re-filed by the next Congress.