Robredo, economic managers tell DAR: Land conversion ban to kill agriculture | Inquirer Business
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Robredo, economic managers tell DAR: Land conversion ban to kill agriculture

By: - Reporter / @bendeveraINQ
/ 12:03 AM October 17, 2016

Vice President Leni Robredo and the country’s economic managers have called on the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to pursue the enactment of a national land use law and strictly implement existing land use regulations instead of imposing a two-year ban on farm land conversion.

In opposing the draft executive order (EO) aimed at putting in place a moratorium on the conversion of agricultural land into nonagricultural uses, the heads of five government agencies said such proposal “can have adverse impacts on agriculture sector revitalization, meeting the housing backlog, accelerating infrastructure development, and other economic activities which are currently on expansionary mode.”

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The three-page joint position paper submitted by the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) to the Office of the President on Oct. 3 was signed by Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, and Robredo, who chairs the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC).

“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,” said Pernia, who is also Neda director general.

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Pernia noted that “when the applications for conversion to agro-industrial use are denied, land requirements of agriculture-based processing and manufacturing activities may not be met.”

“Paradoxically, agriculture sector revitalization may suffer under this policy, which purports to protect that sector in the first place. When the applications for conversion to agro-industrial use are denied, the land requirements of agriculture-based processing and manufacturing activities may not be met,” the position paper read.

Pernia said other sectors would similarly be affected. He pointed out 27.5 percent of manufacturers and 29.5 percent of agricultural, fishery and forestry firms have “significant” plans to expand their businesses.

Pernia added the proposed plan’s impact on housing development cannot also be ignored. He said the housing backlog was expected to exceed 5.5 million units this year.

“In addition to this, the ban will also impede the development of resettlement and evacuation areas, especially in disaster-stricken areas, as these sites are mostly within agricultural zones,” the position paper also read.

“Simply put, this will result in delayed improvement in the living conditions of millions of Filipinos with the increase in cost of land for housing due to the unnecessary locking up of land resources. In short, the ban will be antipoor,” it added.

Government data showed that at end-2015, the total area approved for land use conversion was just 151,795.37 hectares or only 1.2 percent of the country’s total agricultural land resource.

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For both public and private infrastructure projects, the acquisition of right-of-way would also likely be delayed as a result of the planned executive fiat, Pernia said.

“Meeting the target public infrastructure spending of 5-7 percent of GDP [gross domestic product] during the current administration rests crucially on timely right-of-way acquisition,” the five agencies said.

Despite the country currently being in a “rapid” growth trajectory, the implementation of a land use conversion moratorium “can be antithetical to economic growth, job generation and poverty reduction,” they said.

They expressed support, however, to the DAR proposal to create a task force that would assess the status of land use conversion in the country.

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TAGS: Business, DAR, economy, News, Vice President Leni Robredo
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