The government’s economic cluster and the Office of the Vice President are calling for stronger land use administration instead of adopting the two-year ban on land conversion propsed by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).
In a joint position paper, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and the Departments of Finance (DoF), Budget and Management (DBM), Trade and Industry (DTI), and the Office of the Vice President gave the proposed ban on land use conversion the thumbs down for its adverse impact on the economy —including the agricultural sector which the moratorium would supposedly protect.
On September 12, President Rodrigo Duterte approved the Department of Agrarian Reform’s (DAR) proposal for a two-year moratorium on the conversion of agricultural land to non-agricultural uses to support the 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 noted in a letter to the Office of the President.
Pernia, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 3rd, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez and Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo signed the joint position paper with its main premise that that “ the land use conversion ban is antithetical to economic growth, job generation, and poverty reduction.”
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, according to the paper.
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 form a task force and assess the status of land use conversion in the country and seek the necessary support of other implementing agencies.
A counter proposal by the economic cluster and the Vice President called for the implementation of national land use regulation and the 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 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.
It underscored the likelihood of delays in reducing the government’s housing backlog, which the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) expects 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.