April 5, 2018


Last April 5, the Junior Philippine Geographical Society, in cooperation with the UP Children’s Rights Advocates League (UP CRAdLe) and UP Enkindle, organized a symposium on the proposed National Land Use Act (NLUA) in the Philippines that was held in the University of the Philippines, Diliman Campus. It provided an introduction about the NLUA, discussing the Bill’s historical context, provisions, and practical implications upon various sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, urban settlers and indigenous people.

On broad strokes, the Senate Bill No. 34 or the NLUA, which is primarily proposed by Senator Loren Legarda, seeks to establish an integral national land use policy that formulates, classifies, implements and monitors the land use in the country. As such, it seeks to integrate and to harmonize existing old laws on land use. As one of the speakers mentioned, Mr. Ivan Nestor Bancoro, there are current laws that are already outdated and have not been revised for about ten or more years. For Ms. Gemma Martin of the John J. Caroll Institute on Church and Social Issues, NLUA is relevant because it will supersede and harmonize previous laws that were enacted in a fragmented basis

With the NLUA, it will create a centralized body – Land Use Policy Council – that will be composed of various government agencies. It will serve as the highest body placed at the national level that will ensure the compliance of stakeholders involved in land use. Furthermore, with the proposed NLUA, it aims to introduce integrated frameworks in the land use planning. These include, for instance, priority developments in the agricultural lands, provisions of CARP, principles on watershed reservation, classification of coastal areas, harmonization of mineral land use with Indigenous People’s (IP) lands, and values formation education.

Given the proposed NLUA, the land use classification will also be clearly classified into protection (protection of heritage lands and sites), production (food production and manufacturing), direct and indirect utilization of land resources (agri-lands, mineral, and energy resource land use), settlements development (residential and housing), and infrastructure development (institutional land use, construction of high-rise buildings).

Issues and challenges were also discussed by the speakers. Environmental Planner Emmanuel Garcia of the Geographical Society tackled how the main challenge with any discussion of land use is the practicability aspect of the law to the Local Government Units (LGUs). He specifically pointed out to the latter’s absorptive capacity. Ms. Kimberly Alvarez of
KAISAHAN Tungo sa Kaunlaran ng Kanayunan at Repormang Pansakahan talked about how little attention is given to proper issues. A specific case she cited was in land allocation – if lands are meant to be ancestral lands or form part of coastal areas, then why are these turned into residential settlements?

In sum, in spite of the noted issues and gaps found in the NLUA, all the speakers are in unison about the urgency of passing this bill into a law. They see it as a blueprint for development, a platform to empower the LGUs, and a tool to empower the poor and the marginalized sectors.