THE government’s economic team has rejected the two-year ban on the conversion of agricultural land into non-agricultural sites as proposed by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), saying that such moratorium is detrimental to economic growth. It is now seeking the concurrence of other related government agencies with the move to put its position forward with more gravitas.
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) is opposing the two-year ban on land conversion, which had earlier gained the support of the Department of Agriculture and President Rodrigo Duterte, who is set to issue an Executive Order for the moratorium.
However, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and NEDA Director General Ernesto Pernia said the economic planning body had circulated a position paper recommending the rejection of the said moratorium to the Departments of Finance (DOF), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), in an effort to give the recommendation more “gravitas.”
Pernia said the NEDA’s position paper will make the heads of the DOF, DTI and DBM see the point of agreeing to the rejection of the proposed ban.
He said they need to strengthen their position now to oppose the draft Executive Order on the matter.
Pernia said the DOF is fully supportive of the move to reject the ban. “We are just waiting for the comment of the DBM, but I already talked with [DBM] Secretary Benjamin Diokno and he is also supportive,” he added.
Bad for housing backlog, infra plans
Citing the ill effects of the moratorium, Pernia said it is detrimental to economic growth because it would prevent the government from addressing the housing backlog and the problem of infrastructure gap in the country.
“It is anti-housing, especially housing for the poor. It is also a problem for infrastructure projects because the right of way will be a problem,” he said.
The NEDA chief explained that many infrastructure projects will need right-of-way provisions and if land conversion is prohibited in the country, then roads would not be widened and new roads and railways could not be constructed.
“There are many land [areas]not suited for agriculture. So why ban these lands to be converted so that they can be used for other purposes, like infrastructure, housing or commercial use?” he said.
“It [what they are proposing]is total ban for the entire country for two years. That is going to be detrimental.”
Instead of banning land conversion altogether, the government should be imposing strictly its zoning and land use policy, Pernia said, adding, “And also, taxing idle lands, so that the owners will be forced to put them to appropriate use.”