DOF to overhaul land governance policies

Mary Grace Padin (The Philippine Star) - February 9, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez emphasized yesterday the urgency of overhauling the country’s obsolete land governance policies to prevent Metro Manila’s worsening urban land crisis from happening in other cities, such as Davao.

“As our population increased rapidly over the last few decades, with our land policies hardly keeping pace, the phenomenon of landlessness has become more severe,” Dominguez said in a speech at the Conference on Sustainable Governance organized by the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

“So many of our settlements are vulnerable. Our cities are congested. Our forested areas have been stripped to make way for human habitation. We are truly facing a land governance crisis and we must respond decisively to this,” he said.

Dominguez cited Metro Manila as a prime example of poor land governance, preventing the public from acquiring properties to build schools and hospitals due to high land costs.

“Right-of-way has become a costly proposition for public works. No provisions were put in place for road widening,” he added.

Unless the government updates its land governance policies, Dominguez said land prices, much like in Metro Manila, would hit the roof as commercial developers, agricultural estates, industrial and export-processing zones, and other industries compete for the use of the country’s scarce resources.

“If land becomes too expensive, it will be inaccessible to the homeless and raise the costs of production, thereby, diminishing our competitiveness,” Dominguez said.

In line with this, Dominguez said the Department of Finance (DOF) is doing its part to harmonize the country’s land governance policies.

These include pushing for policy reforms to reduce estate taxes, encouraging the documentation of land assets and freeing them up for productive use.

This provision is included in the first package of the DOF’s Comprehensive Tax Reform Program, filed as House Bill 4774 in the House of Representatives.

Under the package, estate tax will be reduced to a single rate of six percent based on the net value of the estate.

A separate proposal, House Bill 4815, has also been approved by the Lower House on its second reading.

Dominguez has also encouraged local government units to update their land valuations as a measure to discourage idle lands and increase revenues.

He added that while the National Land Use Plan is sitting in the Congress “with little indication” of being passed into law soon, the government should act on updating its land use policies.

 

CARLOS DOMINGUEZ
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