MANILA, Philippines

With land being a limited and finite resource, human demand and utilization have gotten in the way of upholding environmental protection and ethical land use and conversion.

In fact, with the 30 million hectares of land in the Philippines, almost half or 14.9 million hectares of which are classified as titled lands, which are alienable and disposable. The slim majority, 15. 1 million hectares, are classified as public lands and are not for titling or ownership by private individuals and business entities.

Human demands, however, do not end its impact in that near 50:50 division of land. Basic sectors and civil society organizations lament that the following areas are the most vulnerable and in danger of caving into resource depletion, being destroyed or damaged by natural and man-made disasters, and over-exploitation and conversion due to unconscionable reasons:

  • Public lands such as forestlands/uplands and coastal/foreshore areas. Philippine jurisprudence defines forestlands to include public forests, permanent forests or forest reserves, and forest reservations. A public forest is the “mass of lands of the public domain which has not been the subject of the present system of classification for the determination of which lands are needed for the forest purposes and which are not.” Permanent forests or forest reserves, meanwhile, are lands of the public domain “which have been the subject of the present system of classification and determined to be needed for forest purposes.”
  • Prime agricultural or productive lands

A Senate Economic Planning Office policy brief release in December 2014 cited that a few of the reasons for protecting prime agricultural lands in particular, along with the generally classified agricultural lands, are to: “(1) protect agriculture as a very important local industry, and enhance the potential of agriculture and agriculture-based industries to generate more jobs and further reduce poverty; (2) promote food self-sufficiency and maintain local food supplies; (3) ensure orderly urban development; and (4) enhance environmental amenities associated with open space.”

With these definitions and reasons, it has been imperative for civil society organizations and the general public to push for protection of these lands. However, the lack of a National Land Use Act shows a continuous change in land use or even a slip in how these areas are preserved and protected.

Land coverage change reports, for one, show changes between 2003 and 2010 in three provinces with vast forest, grassland, and croplands. Palawan drew a 79 percent loss in closed forests, 30 percent loss in wooded grassland, 80 percent loss in grasslands, and 18 percent in annual croplands within the seven-year period.

Infographic: Gene Paolo Gumagay

Oriental Mindoro, meanwhile, recorded 73 percent or 15,326.31 hectares loss in closed forests, 61 percent or 123,966.99 hectares loss in open forests, 71 percent or 2,567.65 hectares loss in open lands, and a 100 percent decrease or the loss of the full 464.36 hectares of remaining marshland in the province.

Infographic: Gene Paolo Gumagay

Agusan del Sur, a Mindanao province, recorded the following change in land cover between 2003 and 2010: a 25.06 percent loss or 42,673.11 hectares decrease of wooded grassland, 21.46 percent loss or decrease of 25,095.52 hectares of shrubs, 21.33 percent decrease or 17,041.40 hectares of perennial crop, and a decline of 18.29 percent or 10,131.62 hectares of marshland. Lands classified as unknown in 2003, amounting to 44,255.22 hectares, has been declassified from that category in 2010. Built-up area, however, increased 1,598.49 percent in seven years, from a measly 542.84 hectares to 9,220.14 hectares.

Infographic: Gene Paolo Gumagay

A presentation by Mr. Elmer Mercado in 2016 during the Asian Land Forum, cited that the “absence of an integrating and common national and local physical planning framework” and the “disconnected and disjointed land use management and implementing bodies” draw policy and institutional limitations for lands that should be protected.

Mr. Mercado also cited that “existing and key land use and resource management policies are outdated and outmoded, disjointed and disconnected, overlapping and conflicting, [and] focused on disposition, utilization and allocation.”

And with that, a law for National Land Use, according to Mr. Mercado’s presentation, must address or do the following:

  • “Determine primacy of land resource use for common good versus all other demands, requirements, claims, and use rights;”
  • “Determine the minimum protected land use resource for future needs (preserved and maintained now and [in the] future;”
  • “Ensure the primacy of land use plan (physical framework plan) versus all other sectoral and development plans of government; all sectoral and development plans must directly contribute and consistent to the objectives and goals of the approved NPPF, RPFP, PPFP and CLUP;” and
  • “Now focus more on management with planning.”

Finally, the following are cited as some pre-conditions to operationalize NLUA once passed into law:

  • Completion of permanent and final forestlands delineation, inventory and assessment;
  • Completion and updating of cadastral surveys and maps;
  • Establishment of an integrated, publicly accessible GIS-based national spatial database and land resource information system and network (includes all survey, technical and physical maps, plans, land titles, tenurial instruments, land management arrangements, valuation and assessments, and ownership status);
  • Consolidation and integration of land administration agencies (i.e. titling, survey/mapping and registration) into a single land administration and management authority
  • Unification and issuance of single titling document/instrument for all types of land ownership/tenurial instrument using a graphical and technical representation of area covered.

– RealTalk News, June 11, 2018

Editor’s note: This story was produced with support from the Asian NGO Coalition for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development and ILC-NES Year 4.

Posted by RealTalk

RealTalk provides data-based analysis and perspective on issues mostly meddled by propaganda pretending to be objective information and topics that can be better viewed using numbers, facts, and official documents.

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