Groups want law on rational land use

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/24 February) – Several groups have pushed for the passage of a bill seeking to rationalize the use of the country’s lands.

In a Mindanao-wide consultation on House Bill 478 held here today, the groups underscored the need for the passage of the legislative measure noting that the demand for lands has been increasing compared to the limitation of its use without sacrificing food and environmental security.

HB 478 is one of the nine proposed measures in Congress on land use planning.

According to Akbayan party list Rep. Arlene Bag-ao, the need to pass the national land use planning law is very much needed as the conflict in land uses around the country is intensifying.

Conflicts often arise over and among such land uses as agriculture, ancestral domain, mining, tourism and ecozones, rural and coastal settlement, and protected areas.
Bag-ao said the current setup has caused one land use to overlap with another and led to the issuance of conflicting tenurial instruments.
Moreover, a study conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources found out that at least 24 government agencies are involved in land management.

Often, protected areas overlap with settlement areas or ancestral domain areas, and prime, irrigated agricultural lands would be converted to commercial and other uses.

Absence of a rationalized land use has also been blamed for the establishment of settlement areas in known geohazard zones.

Bag-ao said HB 478 “is a development planning guide on land use with public interest and welfare as the overarching principles.”

Some of the salient points of the proposed measure include the establishment of an Inter-agency Mapping Support System, the establishment of the Land Use Conflict Claims Council and the Land Use Planning Council (LUPC).

These systems and councils shall be grassroots-based starting from the city and municipal local governments.

Bag-ao said they are confident that the bill, which was certified as urgent by President Aquino, will be passed in the 15th Congress.

She, however, admitted that the biggest barriers to the passage of the law would be big economic interests like those of the mining industry.

The consultation was organized by the civil society coalition Comprehensive Land Use Policy Now or CLUP Now and attended by about a hundred civil society leaders from all over the island.

CLUP Now is going around the country to gather grassroots support for HB 478 ahead of deliberations in Congress once the bill passes the technical working group and is tabled for second reading. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin/MindaNews)