FARMER GROUPS on Monday sought stronger provisions against land conversion in House Bill (HB) No. 8162 or the National Land Use Act (NaLUA), saying the current draft is not enough to protect small farmers.
“One of the most glaring problems with HB 8162 is its lack of a provision that explicitly prohibits the conversion of agricultural lands,” said National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates-Youth Spokesperson Marina Cavan in a statement.
“This is a major concern, as the conversion of agricultural lands to other uses, such as housing and commercial development has a number of negative consequences, including food crises and environmental degradation,” she said.
The House of Representatives approved the bill last week on second reading.
The measure seeks to provide a framework for determining the best use of land and resources. It will also create the National Land Use Commission under the office of the President, which will draft the National Physical Framework Plan that will set guidelines on managing the country’s land and other physical resources.
“NaLUA was crafted without the participation of small farmers, fishers, urban poor, and indigenous people who are bound to be drastically affected by the bill,” said Ms. Cavan.
“We believe that national land use policy that is truly in the interests of the Filipino people must be based on the principles of agrarian reform, rural development, and national industrialization.”
In a separate statement, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas Chairperson Danilo H. Ramos said the bill should prioritize benefits for Filipinos and “should not be for big businesses and profits.”
“On the basis, self-sufficiency and the development of the local agriculture industry are not part of NaLUA’s goal. This threatens to conform to business interests and worsen the problem on land use,” he said in Filipino.
Both groups reiterated their call for the passage of the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill, which they believe contains a “just and equitable land use policy” that serves the interest of majority of Filipinos. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera