Sponsorship Speech for HB 478 – Land Use Bill

Sponsorship Speech for HB 478

Committee on Land Use

Rep. Kaka J. Bag-ao, AKBAYAN Partylist

24 November 2010 / RVM 5

Mr. Chairman, distinguished colleagues, magandang umaga po sa inyong lahat.

The quest to pass a land use act already has a long history. This piece of legislation is one of the major  legislative measures that civil society organizations have been pushing for a couple of decades now. In fact the advocacy for the passage of a national land use law is a contemporary of legislative measures like the Local Government Code, the Indigenous People’s Rights Act, the Fisheries Code and several others who have long been inked  into laws. The passage of a Land Use Policy Act (LUPA), which is among the first priority bills of my party Akbayan  which is among the first bills filed by  former Rep. Etta Rosales when she first joined the House of Representatives in 1998, remains elusive.

Our hopes are buoyed, however, because President Noynoy Aquino, himself recognizes the importance of this legislative measure when he delivered his first State of the Nation Address last July. The passage of a land use act is indeed an imperative.

How can we achieve the target of rice self-sufficiency if we continue to face daily the constant depletion of  our rice lands which are being converted to other uses? How can we even begin to contemplate on addressing the global climate change crisis in the absence of a rational and comprehensive land use policy that will protect our environment?  Our social justice measures – like agrarian reform and ancestral domains – are constantly being threatened by land conversion, mining and logging concessions and others. There are even cases where landless farmers are pitted against indigenous peoples when lands within the ancestral domains are distributed under the agrarian reform program. These are just several of the problems that this bill seeks to address.

I have been confronted by  these problems  in my practice as an alternative lawyer before I became a member if this Chamber. The case of the Sumilao farmers was essentially a case involving conflicts in land use – primary agricultural lands being converted into agro-industrial use. I have also handled cases of indigenous peoples communities being threatened by MPSAs and TLAs.

House Bill 478, which is principally sponsored by myself and my colleague in Akbayan, Rep. Walden Bello and co-authored by Representatives Flores, Unabia, Benaldo, Baguilat,Hataman-Salliman and Zubiri , seeks to respond  the problems I have earlier mentioned by grabbing them by the horn,  so to speak, by:

(a) Addressing the  inadequacies of the current and existing land use policies that result to conflicting claims

(b) The need for a national land use framework that will guide both the national and the local governments in confronting the challenges of ensuring food security, and protecting and strengthening environmental integrity

(c) Promoting rational land use planning that are directly related to climate change adaptation and mitigation, and disaster risk management

House Bill 478 likewise seeks to address land issues such as:

(a) absence of priorities in land uses;

(b) location of industries and settlements within ecologically critical areas or prime and irrigated agricultural lands;

(c) Market-biased policies on land use;

(d) location of mining operations in ancestral land, forest land and even prime agricultural land; and

(e) lack of systematic information on land uses and hazardous areas

In addressing these grave concerns, House Bill 478 contains the following major features:

1.) Establishment of crucial priorities for land use, especially areas to be protected for ecological purposes and areas to be developed and protected from conversion to ensure food security;

2.) Adoption of measures to promote land development, discourage land speculation and generate revenues;

3.) Integration and institutionalization of people’s participation in defining the framework and guiding principles of land allocation and utilization and it provides for the mandatory participation of stakeholders in key decision making bodies on land use policy at all levels.

4.) Establishment of a Land Use Policy Council that will act as the highest policy making body on land use with quasi-judicial power to resolve conflicting land use policies

5.) Formulation of National Land Use Guidelines and Zoning Standards (NLUGZS) that will  guide the land use planning and zoning of all the national offices and local government units (CLUPs) and will consider conflicting claims as a factor in land use planning and zoning.

6.) It contains provisions that address eleven (11) Special Areas of Concern such as agricultural lands, forest and watershed, coastal zones, mineral lands, ancestral Domain, lands with energy resource, settlements, industrial zones, waste disposal sites, tourism development areas, and infrastructure development lands

Finally, Mr. Chair, we are not alone in pushing for this important piece of legislation.  Civil society organizations and people’s organizations are active proponents of this bill. The Campaign for Land Use Policy NOW! (CLUP) – a network of 28 civil society organizations,  have been active in the formulation of this bill and are very active in the campaign for its passage.

Walang lugar ang baku-bakong pagpaplano ng gamit ng lupa sa matuwid na daan. Let us pass this law now.

Maraming salamat po.

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