Destructive ‘Paeng’ episode highlights urgency of national land use policy–Duterte

Published November 1, 2022, 3:53 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

A Mindanao congressman has underscored the urgency of instituting a national policy that would ensure the efficient and sustainable use of the country’s land and physical resources as a means to provide long-term safeguards to communities vulnerable to climate change.

Davao City 1st district Rep. Paolo Duterte (Facebook)

According to Davao City 1st district Rep. Paolo Duterte, the recent destruction wrought by severe tropical storm “Paeng” in Maguindanao, which resulted in the deaths of dozens of people via landslides, demonstrate the direct impact of proper planning and use of land resources on saving people’s lives.

Along with Benguet lone district Rep. Eric Yap and two other lawmakers, Duterte filed House Bill (HB) 3956, which aims to establish clear parameters on the utilization of all land and physical resources in the country by institutionalizing a national land use policy.

The bill outlines land use policies to determine areas allocated for agricultural production, housing and settlements, energy development, industries and other economically productive sites, and protected zones for environmental sustainability.

Duterte said the bill and other similar measures filed in Congress seek to “end the current degradation of the country’s land resources, and optimize balanced development”.

He said one key aspect of passing the proposed National Land Use Act (NLUA) that is often understated or overlooked is its importance in protecting communities from the destructive effects of climate change.

“We often mention the National Land Use Act in the context of ensuring food security by, for one, preventing the conversion of agricultural lands to housing and commercial projects. But the rational and efficient planning and use of our land resources is also vital in ensuring that we get to identify high-risk and danger-prone locations in our communities,” the second-term solon said.

The bill, of which ACT-CIS Partylist Reps Edvic Yap and Jeffrey Soriano are also principal authors, states that “priority shall be given to life and safety, and thus to identifying hazard prone areas and corresponding risk reduction measures as part of the DRR (disaster risk reduction) and CCA (climate change adaptation) objective”

“Given the country’s approximate land area of 300,000 square kilometers, there is a need for a comprehensive and responsive land use policy to address the impact of deforestation and urbanization on food, housing, business, health and the environment,” the authors said.

Duterte said the bill and other similar measures should be approved at the soonest possible time by Congress to protect future generations of Filipinos, and enable them to adapt better to climate change and respond to the growing needs of the population for food, shelter and jobs.

He recalled that the passage of the NLUA has been certified as urgent by the previous administration of his father, former President Rodrigo Duterte, who had said the law “will address our competing land requirements for food, housing business, and environmental conservation”.

On top of addressing these needs, the Davao City lawmaker said a national land use policy will also assist the local government units (LGUs) in mapping out their climate-resilient development plans.