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Gov’t plans ‘modified’ land conversion moratorium

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By Chino S. Leyco

Davao City – President Rodrigo R. Duterte will come up with a “modified” executive order governing the moratorium on land conversion, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) announced yesterday.

At the Philippine Development Forum (PDF), NEDA Director General and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said that a comprise has been agreed upon by Duterte’s cabinet members for the issuance of an EO on land conversion.

“We economic managers have made observations including the Vice President, and we opposed that policy or program,” Pernia said. “But of course, we have to compromise with the other members of the cabinet.”

“The EO is being modified now to take into account our contributions in term of the impact of the land conversion in the infrastructure development which will require to convert certain lands for infrastructure as well as for housing and non-agri enterprises,” he added.

According to Pernia, the modified EO of Duterte will not cover lands considered not suited for agriculture.

Earlier, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) proposed for a two-year ban on land conversion, but was opposed the Duterte’s economic mangers led by the NEDA as well as Vice President and Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) Chair Ma. Leonor G. Robredo.

In a position paper signed by Robredo, Pernia, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno, and Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, they opposed the DAR proposal, saying it is detrimental to the country’s economy.

Last September 12, Duterte approved the DAR’s proposal for a two-year moratorium on land conversion, which disallows the conversion of agricultural land to non-agricultural uses. This was intended to support the country’s food security program.

“While we are one with DAR in finding ways to address the country’s food security concern, food security has to be met through some other means,” Pernia said in his letter to the Office of the President.

The joint position paper states that “overall, the land use conversion ban is antithetical to economic growth, job generation, and poverty reduction.”

According to the document, a two-year ban on land conversion can derail efforts to revitalize agriculture, meet the housing backlog, accelerate infrastructure development, and expand other economic activities.

“Paradoxically, agriculture sector revitalization may suffer under this proposed policy,” the paper stated.

With the ban on land use conversion, land requirements may not be met for agriculture-based processing and manufacturing activities, which can help make food affordable, increase farmers’ incomes, and generate export revenues.

The paper nonetheless supports the DAR proposal to create a task force that will assess the status of land use conversion in the country and seek the necessary support of other implementing agencies.

Instead of imposing a two-year ban, the position paper strongly called for the implementation of national land use regulation and enact a National Land Use Law.

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