Cordillerans review National Land Use Act

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BAGUIO CITY – The Regional Land Use Committee (RLUC) gathered stakeholders from all over the region to provide inputs to the draft National Land Use Act (NaLUA) on April 11. NEDA-CAR, as RLUC Chair, invited stakeholders from Regional Line Agencies (RLAs), Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and Local Government Units (LGUs) to discuss NaLUA provisions related to environment, agriculture, industry, settlements, infrastructure, and the responsibilities and functions of concerned government institutions.

NEDA-CAR presented the key features of the NaLUA. The NaLUA is one of the current administration’s priority legislations. It aims to resolve land use conflicts, mandate the formulation of land use plans at the national and local levels, and, integrate and monitor developments on land use. While several laws have been passed related to land use, such as the Urban Development and Housing Act, the Solid Waste Management Act, the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act, and many others, “there is no unified legal framework on land use”, according to NEDA-CAR.

NEDA-CAR Regional Director Milagros Rimando stressed the importance of passing the NaLUA but advised the stakeholders to examine the provisions and its implications for the Cordillera.  The region’s unique topography and its role as the watershed cradle of Northern Luzon which requires special consideration. Cordillerans have also practiced land use related to their own Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Practices (IKSPs).  There are land use and other environmental policies not applicable in the region because of its unique topography.

One of the most significant restrictions to Cordillera development is Presidential Decree 705 which limits the development of lands to only those with slopes below 18 percent. Lands with slopes above 18 percent are classified as forest land, which for the Cordillera, is about 85 percent of its total land area.  This means only 15 percent of Cordillera land is alienable and disposable. This ignores centuries of sustainable utilization of lands by Cordillerans.

The recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights to ancestral lands was a point of emphasis. Participants were open to the use of ancestral lands for agriculture subject to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) but discouraged its use for other business activities.

Participants and NEDA-CAR highlighted potentially contentious issues such as the restrictions to the building of new settlements and facilities in hazard-prone areas. Given the region’s susceptibility to landslides, hazard-prone areas must be clearly defined. Participants also said that local government units should be required to provide proper evacuation areas.

Inputs from the consultations will be forwarded by NEDA-CAR to the National Land Use Committee (NLUC) for consideration in the draft National Land Use Act to be filed in the 18th Congress. It will be presented to the 11th NLUC meeting on April 23. The stakeholders were hopeful of the potential of the NaLUA to integrate and rationalize all land use plans of the country but urged government agencies to ensure its proper implementation.

By Marlo T. Lubguban
Banner photo by Armando M. Bolislis

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