Land security to boost PH economy – US envoy

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UNITED States Ambassador to Manila Sung Kim highlighted the importance of land tenure security and promised to continuously support the Philippines in unlocking the potential of land to stimulate investment.

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LAND GOVERNANCE US Ambassador Sung Kim (center) talks to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 3rd (left) and Susan Brems of the US Agency for International Development (right) during a conference on sustainable land governance in Manila on Wednesday. PHOTO BY ROGER RAÑADA

“Land tenure is a key issue in managing urban growth and reducing poverty in both rural and urban areas,” he said in his keynote speech during the Conference on Sustainable Land Governance in Manila on Wednesday. The event was organized by the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

“Stronger property rights regimes are closely associated with higher incomes, more investment and a rise in overall economic growth,” the ambassador added.

Attended by leaders from the national and local government, business, civil society and other sectors, the conference focused on multi-disciplinary discussions on practical solutions to challenges in land governance and promoted efficient and sustainable approaches to urban land administration and reform.

The coalition called for the adoption of a sustainable land governance to address the country’s land sector development concerns, saying that woes in land registration is setting back the Philippine economy.

“We need to enhance land market to attract investment and benefits for development,” Susan Brems, mission director of USAID Philippines, said.

“Secured land rights is important to investment,” Heath Cosgrove, director of USAID’s Land Tenure and Resource Management Office, added. “Insecure land rights are costly to investors.”

Nearly half of the Philippines’ land parcels remain untitled, according to Calixto Chikiamco, president of Foundation for Economic Freedom.

Experts proposed several reforms, including mass land-titling program, placing women at the center of urban development, use of geo-spatial technologies to help urban poor communities and the adoption of innovative land-based financing tools for sustainability, among others.

“The impact of the land reform on the economy is huge,” Chikiamco said. “Land security is a matter of both economic and political liberty.”

Kim noted that several studies have found that countries like the US with more secure property rights have higher average incomes.

“Security of tenure is a powerful investment incentive that leads to more rapid economic growth and, ultimately, higher incomes,” he said.

As such, the envoy noted that the USAID and several partners in development have made notable strides toward promoting land rights, such as giving assistance to the Philippine judiciary to improve efficiency in the adjudication of cases, including land disputes; supporting lending institutions to build their capacity to assist small and medium enterprises in securing titles to their lands; and working with secondary and tertiary cities to improve their land tenure security and land management systems.

Kim said the Duterte government has given priority to land tenure security and efficient land management and administration in its zero plus ten-point socio-economic agenda.

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