[Statement] Dapat sa SONA, Land Use ISAMA! -CLUP Now!

Campaign for Land Use Policy Now (CLUP Now!)

Dapat sa SONA, Land Use ISAMA!

Dear Mr. President,

Now, more than ever, the Philippines is at the mercy of climate forces. Every year we encounter around 20 fierce typhoons, heavier rainfall and longer dry spells.

CLUP NOW

Typhoon Yolanda last November 8, 2013 exposed our vulnerability as a nation in dealing with the devastating loss of lives and livelihoods, particularly of poor farmers, fisherfolk and the urban poor.

Yolanda left Eastern Visayas with more than 6,200 people dead; 4 million homes destroyed, displacing 16 million people. We lost approximately PhP 13.2 billion (US$ 301 million) worth of damaged infrastructure, and PhP 11.4 billion (US$ 260 million) worth of damaged agriculture.

Of the 26 municipalities devastated by Yolanda, 13 have no Comprehensive Land Use Plans while 8 need updating. Had there been proper land use planning in these areas, could structures have been located in safer places and saved more lives? Could mangrove forests have been conserved to help block the storm surge?

Aside from climate change, rampant land conversion from farmlands or forests to real estate, tourism, industrial uses and mining, among others add more pressure to the use of our finite land, forests and water resources for a growing population.

Now, more than ever, we need the National Land Use Act (NLUA) that will set the guidelines in delineating areas for protection, production, settlements and infrastructure in order to ensure that our land and water resources are protected and utilized in a manner beneficial and sustainable to all sectors of society and the next generation.

The Campaign for a National Land Use Policy Now Network (CLUP Now) believes that the NLUA will help present and future Filipinos adapt to climate change and have secure and safer settlements. It will also strengthen our country’s mechanisms in ensuring sufficient food and livelihood for all and protecting our threatened environmental resources.

Today, CLUP Now! is joined by its member and ally networks from Pambansang Kalipunan ng mga Samahan sa Kanayunan, Pangisda Pilipinas, Urban Land Reform Movement, AR Now!, Alyansa Tigil Mina, and the Forest Resources Bill Network in a “GREEN MARCH” to call on you, President Noy, to include in your State of the Nation Address once again, the National Land Use Act as a priority legislative measure for passage this 16th Congress.

As a firm expression of your support for NLUA, Mr. President, we expect no less that you certify the NLUA bill as urgent as you did in the 15th Congress. We thank the champions of the bill in the House of Representatives — Representatives Kaka Bag-ao, Teddy Brawner Baguilat and Jorge Banal — for having shepherded the NLUA’s passage last June 2. However, the bill languishes in the Senate with it still being at the Committee level as chaired by Sen. Loren Legarda.

Our networks have banded together in support of NLUA to emphasize 7 critical areas of concern that the National land use act can help address:

1. Physical planning before development and investment planning – In practice, changes in land use planning right now are mainly driven by national infrastructure projects and investments by the private sector thus resulting in unpredictable growth and directions of urban development. The NLUA stresses the need to complete land use planning first for local governments to identify where their built-up areas are apart from the protection areas.

2. Access for Small Fishers and Settlement – The NLUA will support the fisherfolk calls for better access of municipal waters and implementation of fisherfolk settlements as stated in the Fisheries Code. In some Yolanda-hit areas, the still vague NO BUILD/DWELLING ZONE policy seems to apply only to small fisherfolk who are now deprived access to municipal waters to fish or even the foreshore. Meanwhile, private investors are invited to explore these areas for tourism purposes.

3. Protect prime agricultural land – The NLUA gives primacy to the protection of prime agricultural land from conversion to other uses to ensure food security for future generations. Food sufficiency is one of the country’s pressing problems with a 100-million population and a 2% growth rate every year. We have around 4 million areas still planted to rice which can feed some 87 million Filipinos (Rappler.com, 2010). The current hectarage planted to rice should either be maintained or increased.

4. Protect environmentally-critical areas for climate mitigation – It is critical that we have a national policy that reinforces protection of our forests and biodiversity because they maintain environmental systems that are essential for life and sustainable development. Forests provide ecological services such as regulation of the hydrological cycle, stabilize climate by storing large amounts of carbon, provide clean water, air and fertilize the soil. Several case studies also proved that mangrove forests, lowland forests and other healthy forests have cushioned the devastating impact of superstorm Yolanda, saving lives and properties in the process. Other extractive activities on our natural resources, such as mining, should likewise be reviewed as they might permanently harm environmentally-critical areas that have significant impact on climate mitigation. As such, we support the passage of the other Green Bills in Congress (Forest Resources Bill and the Alternative Minerals Management Bill) that aim to protect these critical areas.
5. Ancestral domains as a separate planning domain – The NLUA distinguishes ancestral domains as a planning territory separate from public and private domains. The bill appreciates respect for and protection of the sustainable traditional resource rights of Indigenous Cultural Communities/ Indigenous Peoples (ICCs/ IPs) to their ancestral domains, compliance with free and prior informed consent (FPIC) of ICCs/IPs as well as recognition of customary laws and sustainable traditional resource use and management, knowledge, and practices in ancestral domains.

6. Ensure safe and secure settlements for all – With climate disasters on the rise, geohazard and disaster risk areas need to be immediately determined and resettlement of occupants should be done wherever possible. For housing projects, especially for the urban poor, NLUA supports in-city relocation, which does not take informal settlers too far away from their source of employment or education.

7. Clarify guidelines for doing and implementing land use planning from the national to the local levels – The resulting National Physical Framework Plan from the NLUA will guide the LGUs in undertaking land allocation and use planning in a rational, comprehensive and just manner. The development plan in the area to be based on the city or municipality’s physical plan is then hoped to make the local governments more responsive to the needs of their communities, and thus bring about a better quality of life for their constituents.

Mr. President, with the passage of the NLUA, your administration will leave a lasting legacy and impact in sustaining our life support systems, providing more predictable investment conditions, reducing disaster risks and mitigating climate change. This is truly “Tuwid na daan tungo sa kinabukasan”. We trust in your support.

Press Statement
Contact: Maricel Tolentino, 09983257508
July 24, 2014

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