MANILA - The National Economic and Development Authority, together with the Department of Finance, Department of Budget and Management, Department of Trade and Industry, and the Office of the Vice President, has called for strengthening land use administration instead of a two-year ban on land conversion proposed by the Department of Agrarian Reform.
In a joint position paper, NEDA, DOF, DBM, DTI, and the Office of the Vice President stated that the proposed ban on land use conversion will have adverse effects on the economy, including the agricultural sector, which the proposed moratorium purports to protect.
On September 12, President Rodrigo Duterte approved the DAR proposal for a two-year moratorium on land conversion, which disallows the conversion of agricultural land to non-agricultural uses. This was intended to support the country's food security program.
“While we are one with DAR in finding ways to address the country's food security concern, food security has to be met through some other means,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said in his letter to the Office of the President.
Signed by Pernia, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez and Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo, the joint position paper states that “overall, the land use conversion ban is antithetical to economic growth, job generation, and poverty reduction.”
According to the position paper, a two-year ban on land conversion can derail efforts to revitalize agriculture, meet the housing backlog, accelerate infrastructure development, and expand other economic activities.
“Paradoxically, agriculture sector revitalization may suffer under this proposed policy,” the paper stated. With the ban on land use conversion, land requirements may not be met for agriculture-based processing and manufacturing activities, which can help make food affordable, increase farmers' incomes, and generate export revenues.
The paper nonetheless supports the DAR proposal to create a task force that will assess the status of land use conversion in the country and seek the necessary support of other implementing agencies.
Instead of imposing a two-year ban, the position paper strongly called for the implementation of national land use regulation and enactment of a National Land Use Law.
“In the immediate term, government must strictly implement existing laws, which already cover non-conversion of prime agricultural lands, lands subject to land reform, irrigated lands, protected areas, and other areas non-negotiable for conversion,” according to the position paper.
“In the medium term, the legislature should enact a National Land Use Code that shall cover not only land use conversion but also effective land administration. Further, a National Land Use Code will help reduce congestion in Metro Manila and other emerging metropolitan cities like Cebu and Cagayan de Oro,” it read.
The position paper also underscored that the ban on land use conversion will introduce more delays in reducing the government's housing backlog, which the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) projects to reach more than 5.5 million units this year. The ban will also impede the development of resettlement and evacuation areas in disaster-stricken areas, which are mostly agricultural.
“Simply put, this will delay improving the living conditions of millions of Filipinos with the increase in cost of land for housing. In short, the ban is anti-poor,” it added.*PNA
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