FEF holds 2nd Paderanga-Varela Memorial Lecture; Pushes for stronger land use policies

November 23, 2017

November 23, 2017

The Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF) held its 2nd Paderanga-Varela Memorial Lecture last October 25 in Makati City with theme “On A National Land Policy in the Philippines and What It Means to the National Land Use Act”.

The National Land Use Act (NALUA), which has been pending in Congress for more than 20 years, is identified as one of the priority measures of the Duterte Administration. The House of Representatives passed the House version of NALUA, HB 5240, earlier this year.

Dr. Arturo Corpuz, a recognized urban and regional planner, remarked that HB 5240 should not be passed into law as it is equal to reaffirming outdated policies. “NALUA is not a plan but its policies and principles should frame and guide the National Physical Framework Plan and other plans. Upon reviewing HB 5240, some policies/principles are outdated, there is no recognition of the increasingly important role of the urban sector, and there is no reference to competitiveness, innovation, and technology,” he said.

Dr. Corpuz presenting his comments and recommendations on the proposed National Land Use Act

Environmental Planner Elmer Mercado, affirmed this concern and noted that the real problem is land governance in the Philippines. The country has 30 land and land-related laws that are inconsistent and do not relate to each other, with further complications created by having different government entities governing different land areas.

Dr. Corpuz also remarked on HB 5240’s supply side bias and too much focus on protection. In his presentation, he stated that while land suitability and protecting land for forest and agriculture is important, it should be balanced with the requirements of growth, otherwise, it can lead to more land conversions. The 2040 trend scenario show that restricting growth in Metro Manila can lead to more built-up lands – 84% compared to 44% if growth is not restricted.

Architect Jose de Guzman of Subdivision and Housing Development Association, further asserted that excessive protection will encourage corruption and irrational land conversion.

National Economic and Development Authority Assistant Secretary Mercedita Sombilla pointed out that protecting resources and promoting food production could go together because “it allows a balance of protection and sustainable fisheries production within the ecosystem-based approach.” She cited an example wherein a marine reserve can have a core sanctuary where zones for non-exploitive recreation and research, and fishing using non-destructive methods may be allowed, and traditional use zones in the outer areas of the marine reserve can also be designated.

Discussants from the housing sector noted that there is an increase in housing backlogs in the country which is at 5.7 million. Nevertheless, the land requirement to catch up with the housing demand is estimated to be at 38,000 to 72,000 hectares, which is not that huge relative to land dedicated to agriculture and fishery. In connection to this, de Guzman proposed that subsidy should be considered to provide housing for those who cannot afford commercially available units.

From left to right: Architect Jose de Guzman, Elmer Mercado (speaking), Asec. Mercedita Sombilla, Dr. Arturo Corpuz, Atty. Christopher Ryan Tan

For Dr. Corpuz, the bill is very passive and should follow Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia’s examples of land development plans. He proposed few strategies to strengthen land use planning. This includes making cities more efficient, maximizing connectivity with 1-2 hours, shaping the market, and strategies for sustainability and disaster risk reduction. “Infrastructure is an integral part of protection and disaster risk reduction,” he said. He further commented that the bill lacks national development focus and should be revised to be more forward-looking.

For several years, FEF pushes for the security of land tenure. It has done projects to improve land management and administration, and to increase the number of titled residential and agricultural lands in the Philippines. FEF also advocates for land policies that increase economic productivity. In fact, last October 2016, FEF issued a joint statement together with prominent business groups on pushing for a policy framework on land use (READ: Joint Statement on Policy Framework on Land Use).

The Paderanga-Varela Memorial Lecture is in honor of two late co-founders of the Foundation – former Socio-economic Planning Secretary Cayetano Paderanga Jr. and former Department of Education Undersecretary Francisco Varela.

Participants included representatives from the executive and legislative branches of government, national and international non-government organizations, local and foreign business chambers, embassies, and private organizations.


By Isabel Almenteros and Ranna Pintor

You can access the lecture materials HERE.