Zubiri seeks Villar backing for National Land Use Act

Rowegie Abanto, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 03 2023 01:05 PM

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY — Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri on Friday said he is seeking the backing of Sen. Cynthia Villar to pass a National Land Use Act, which has been pending in Congress for over 2 decades. 

“We have to convince them that it is necessary to finally come up with the National Land Use Act,” Zubiri said in a multistakeholder forum here conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). 

"Why? Kasi (Because) we will be able to delineate what is for forest land, what is for housing, what is for industrial parks, and for agriculture."

The National Land Use Act creates a national land-use authority that will draft and oversee a national land-use plan that will classify land according to use: protection (for conservation), production (for agriculture and fisheries), settlements development (for residential purposes), and infrastructure development (for transportation, communication, water resources, social infrastructure).

Zubiri said he will ask Villar, who chairs the Senate’s committee on environment, natural resources, and climate change, to "finally put it to the floor and start with the discussions." 

The proposed law is one of President Ferdinand Marcos Jnr's priority bills. Zubiri said Marcos "made a hard push" for the passage of the National Land Use Act during a recent meeting with House Speaker Martin Romualdez.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Mindanao is holding its third and final leg of a series of consultations with the academe, NGOs, and private groups that started last year, in a bid to come up with a "foundation" for fresh environment resilience policies.

One of the goals of the bill is the protection of agricultural lands for food production activities, with the completion of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program being the "highest priority."

Villar earlier expressed her disagreement with the National Land Use Act when she and Sen. Raffy Tulfo had a heated back and forth during the Senate's deliberation on the Department of Agriculture's proposed 2023 budget in November last year.

Tulfo, at the time, pointed out the shrinking farmlands converted by developers into commercial and residential lands. 

Villar defended her family's business, saying they don't buy agricultural land in the provinces. "We limit ourselves in cities and capital towns," she said.

—with a report from Jauhn Etienne Villaruel, ABS-CBN News

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