Senate urged to pass National Land Use bill
A farm in Ormoc City in Leyte.
Jonathan de Santos, file

Senate urged to pass National Land Use bill

(Philstar.com) - May 22, 2018 - 7:44pm

MANILA, Philippines — A group is calling on the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, to conduct hearings that would pave the way for passage of the National Land Use Act.

Campaign for Land Use Policy Now, in a statement, is particularly urging Sen. Cynthia Villar, panel chair, to push for passage of the bill, which will institute a national land use policy for the country's land resources.

"We, therefore, call on Senator Villar to, once and for all, affirm the duties that she was bound to uphold as a public servant. She should immediately call committee hearings which are long overdue to expedite the passage of the National Land Use Act, which has been languishing in Congress for more than two decades,” the group said.

The group said the National Land Use Act, among the priorities of the Duterte administration, has been sponsored by the Villar-chaired Senate panel since July 2016.

“No less than the chief executive of our country, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, has called for its passage in his State of the Nation Address in July 2017 and it has consistently been in the Common Legislative Agenda of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council,” the group said.

Despite these, the group said that Villar “has made no concrete action to at least convene the Committee on Environment and Natural Resource to discuss the bill.” According to Senate legislative records, three bills on land use are pending at the committee.

CLUPN said the Senate panel’s progress is in contrast to the efforts of the House of Representatives to pass the National Land Use Act promptly. The House approved its counterpart bill in May 2017 and transmitted its bill to the Senate that month.

On July 26, 2017, Sen. Miguel Zubiri filed Senate Bill No. 1522, or the National Land Use Act of 2017. The bill is also known as the act “instituting a National Land Use policy, providing the implementing mechanisms therefor, and for other purposes.”

Zubiri chaired the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources during the 15th Congress.

“This proposed national land use policy also provides for guidelines in major areas, as follows: agricultural lands, forestlands and watersheds, coastal zones, mineral lands, energy resource lands, settlements development areas, industrial development areas, tourism development and heritage areas,” Zubiri’s bill reads.

In the same statement, the CLUPN also condemned the alleged leveling of a mountain on Boracay island for a resort owned by Villar despite its closure. President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the closure of the island to pave way for its rehabilitation.

“The order was simple - close down Boracay to give it time to heal and rehabilitate. Distorting a land form in a small island such as Boracay is unsustainable, and would wreak havoc to the remaining biodiversity,” the group said.

The group also claimed there is a conflict of interest on Villar’s part since “she holds her government position, and the position of her firm holds conflicting interests.”

Villar maintained that all developments in Costa Vista, a project of Villar-led Vista Land & Lifescapes, Inc., “have long been stopped.”

READ: Cynthia Villar says developments in Boracay project ‘long stopped’

The senator also earlier clarified that there is no conflict of interest even if she leads the panel which conducted the probe into the island.

“A national land use law will prevent the undoing of another Boracay,” the group said.

“Senator Villar, walk your talk for the environment and sustainable development. This is your opportunity to prove that your nation’s interests are above those of your family’s. If you can’t do this, then you should step down from your committees and make way for someone who can,” the group said. 

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