Monday, 1 August 2011

Land Use stil in LEDAC

RH, FOI bills excluded from Congress 'urgent' list


MANILA, Philippines – Both the Reproductive Health bill and the Freedom of Information bill have been left out of the 23 additional measures to be prioritized by the House of Representatives when it opens its second regular session next week.

Opposition of the Catholic Church hierarchy have stalled the passage of the RH bill, which is being debated in plenary.

The FOI, which will give access to ordinary citizens to government contracts, among others, has yet to hurdle the committee level.

Quezon Representative Lorenzo Tanada III, the deputy speaker, said Malacanang wants to include a provision in the bill that would not give out information when it could jeopardize national security.

“But we want them to define what national security is because it could be a catch-all phrase,” Tanada, who is part of the committee finalizing the bill’s version.

Tanada, however, said he remains optimistic President Benigno Aquino III will see through the importance of the bill in making true his commitment for transparency.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said the additional 23 measures cover the areas of good governance, agriculture, human rights, cultural communities, land administration and ecology, education and antiterror policies.

“We will hit the ground prepared when Congress opens its 2nd regular session following the President’s State of the Nation Address on July 25,” he said.

According to him, the additional list of proposed measures are apart from the original 23 measures identified by Malacanang during the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) and the 84 bills earlier named by the House leadership.

Of the 23 LEDAC measures, four bills and one joint resolution were already signed into law by the President. Of the 84 original House priorities, 15 have been approved on third reading and are now awaiting Senate action.

The additional priorities include: 1) Terrorist Financing Suppression Act of 2010; 2) Amendments to the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002; 3) Reorganizing the Philippine Statistical System; 4) Strengthening the Animal Industry and Veterinary Quarantine Services; 5) Providing for the Modernization of PAGASA; 6) Providing for a Maritime Code of the Philippines; 7) Eliminating Gender Bias on Adultery and Concubinage Act; 8) Amending RA 7877, “Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995; 9) Women’s Higher Education Act; 10) Providing for a Nationwide Scholarship Program for Indigenous Peoples; 11) Expanding the coverage of the Science and Technology Scholarship Program; 12) Extending the life of the Land Bank of the Philippines; 13) Land Management Bureau Survey of Cadastral Lots in the entire Country; 14) Providing for the delineation of the specific Forest limits of the Public Domain; 15) Banning Asbestos and Asbestos-containing products; 16) Establishing Number Portability for Mobile Telephone Service; 17) Regulating the placement of billboards; 18) Telecommunications Accessibility Act; 19) Anti-Prostitution Act 2011; 20) Prohibiting the use of the words “Muslim” and “Christian” in Mass Media; 21) Debts-for-MDGs Swap; 22) Creating a Center for Studies on Indigenous Cultural Communities; and 23) Filipino Volunteerism in National-Building Act.



From the original LEDAC list, the following, among others, have been approved by the committees to which they were referred to: 1) Establishing the Archipelagic Sea Lanes, prescribing rights of foreign ships; 2) Providing a definite targeting strategy in identifying the poor (amend RA 7875)/Provide mandatory Heathcare Coverage; 3) Amending the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act; 4) Whistle Blowers Protection Act; and 5) National Land Use and Management Act of the Philippines.



The creation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the measure instituting a Land Administration Reform Act are both pending with the Committee on Appropriations for comments on their respective funding provisions.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Green groups bewail ‘eco-unfriendly’ SONA

Campaign for Land Use Policy Now! * Sagip GUBAT * SOS-Yamang Bayan

July 27, 2011
PRESS RELEASE

Green groups bewail ‘eco-unfriendly’ SONA
Keep urging passage of green bills

Environmental activists said their vision of a ‘green-minded’ President will have to wait as they try to move on from a “disappointing, eco-unfriendly” State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Monday.

More than three thousand of them paraded around the Quezon Memorial Circle last Saturday (July 23, 2011), calling on the President to make his “straight path” green (“gawing luntian ang tuwid na daan”, a play on his campaign slogan). But the Green Parade organizers lamented that President Benigno Aquino III barely mentioned the environment in his SONA, let alone his environmental roadmap.

“Sa ngayon ay wala kaming makitang malinaw na patutunguhan ng kanyang tuwid na daan. Ang pagpapahalaga sa kalikasan ay pagpapahalaga sa karapatan, kabuhayan, at kinabukasan. Bago siya magsalita ng iba ay ito dapat ang unahin niya,” the Campaign for Land Use Policy Now! (CLUP Now!), GUBAT (saGipin Ugat ng Bu­­hay At Tubig), and SOS-Yamang Bayan networks said in a statement.

“Mamumuhunan tayo sa taumbayan, habang namumuhunan din sa kalikasan’, ang pinangako ni PNoy sa kanyang SONA. Umaasa kaming mapapatunayan niya ito sa sa kanyang SONA technical report, sa budget, at sa mga gagawin pa niya sa mga susunod na taon,” they added.

The networks led the Green Parade with Representatives Kaka Bag-ao of Akbayan Party-list, Teddy Brawner Baguilat Jr. of Ifugao, and Mel Senen Sarmiento of Western Samar, who are among the networks’ champions of the land use, forest resources, and minerals management bills in Congress. They reiterated their hope that the President and the other lawmakers will immediately pass the said green bills.

“Hangga't hindi naipapasa ang land use act, mawawalang saysay ang anuman sa magagandang plano ng administrasyong ito. Dahil sa kawalan ng  pambansang batas ukol sa paggamit at pamamahala ng lupa, nagkakaroon ito ng  direktang epekto sa  katubigan. Hangga’t walang pambansang batas ukol sa land use, na magsisiguro at magsasaalang-alang ng mga karapatan at interes ng mga batayang sector, walang tunay na pagbabago tayong maituturing,” said Ruperto ‘Ka Uper’ Aleroza, fisherman and president of the Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Samahan sa Kanayunan, a national federation of farmers, fisherfolk and other rural-based organizations, and a leader of the CLUP Now! and Save our Fisheries networks.  Nowhere in PNOY’s SONA did he address the issue or importance of land use in paving the way for his “tuwid na landas.”

Haribon Foundation and the rest of the Sagip GUBAT Network lamented that President Aquino attributed flooding problems on the “incessant and illegal cutting down of trees,” saying that most of the blame should be on commercial logging.

“If sustainable forest management was truly implemented decades ago, our forest cover should not have dropped to just about a quarter of the country's total land area,” said Anabelle Plantilla, Haribon's chief operating officer. “We need to pass the Forest Resources Bill so we can ensure that our forests will continue to provide timber, food, and clean water, as well as help regulate the climate, now and in the future.”

Haribon also noted that the SONA's reference to the National Greening Program, as launched through Executive Order 26, emphasized its main purpose which is to provide livelihood rather than  saving lives by focusing on more comprehensive and appropriate reforestation efforts.

Judy Pasimio of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center, lead convenor of SOS-Yamang Bayan Network, remarked that while there is no direct mention of investments and private-public-private partnerships, the latest SONA is clearly addressing foreign investors.

“While we are not opposing foreign investments per se, PNoy’s first year has clearly shown his bias for large-scale mining investments. The absence of program for environmental protection, or sustainable development of natural resources in his speech, strengthens this perception,” she said.

“The task then for us advocates of a pro-people, pro-environment minerals framework, towards a more sustainable, equitable and nurturing development path, is to strengthen our ranks in the hope that in the next SONA he will address the interests of the rural poor communities, who are dependent on natural resources,” Pasimio added. “We hope that the allies in the Congress and Senate will be with us as we push for the passage of the alternative minerals management bills.”

In Koronadal City, South Cotabato, more than 100 indigenous peoples’ leaders and representatives who gathered for the annual State of Indigenous Peoples Address (SIPA) watched and listened to a live broadcast of the SONA. The SIPA participants were dismayed with the President’s report as there was no mention of the plight of the indigenous peoples, who have been at the forefront of ravages brought by large-scale mining and other ‘development’ projects.

Conchita Bigong, a Mangyan leader from Mindoro who joined the National IP Women Gathering and the SIPA, said,“Tumigil na daw ang paggamit ng wangwang sa lahat ng ahensya. Pero tayong mga katutubo at katutubong kababaihan, kailangan natin ng malaking WANG-WANG! Para marinig nya tayo at malaman nya ang tunay na kalagayan nating mga katutubo at katutubong kababaihan! Kailangang WANG-WANGin ng gobyerno ni P-Noy ang malakihang pagmimina sa bansa!”


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For more information:
Denise Fontanilla, Haribon Foundation – 0922-8151938; rainforestation@haribon.org.ph

Friday, 8 April 2011

In the Doldrums of Land Use

by Martin Gavino (Kaisahan Intern)

Firstly “Land use is the human use of land. Land use involves the management and modification of natural environment or wilderness into built environment such as fields, pastures, and settlements.” (Land Use, n.d, par. 1) It is directly involved within the bounds of humanity, the pavement that we walk on everyday, the sidewalks that we stroll by and the earth that we feel underneath our shoes, the sand between our toes and perhaps the very place where you’re reading this article. It involves almost everything “land” bound.

Initially I had no idea what Land Use was all about. It was an alien concept and it would’ve been probably still if not for the NGO (Kaisahan) that I’ve worked in, they opened so many doors towards new ideas that imbibed a sense of liberation in my part it was something worth looking at and to be able to actuate its entire significance was overwhelming. It was indeed germane and it is an issue and still remains as such, that involves everyone and anyone that’s breathing and has concerns over their own wellbeing.

Compared to other countries our situation remains pretty bleak our laws regarding zoning are beyond rigidness, it is an understatement to say that we are not ready. Perchance we are going to die a fiery death when worse comes to worst. Not to appear cynical but if we barely have enough time to focus on other salient issues what will happen towards our Land Use policy proposals? It will gradually, become forgotten and sooner or later will fade into history like all the others that came before them.

Understanding Land Use is as easy as learning how to tie a shoe, at first it was very difficult and you need to completely understand the process before going through the next step. It is a gradual learning through time and will most likely help if one develops the patience to improve their knowledge on such a topic. It creates an even grander scale of thought that would help eradicate the debacles concerning Land Use. It is a topic that can help if used aptly towards constructing awareness and an overall idea of what the problem is, if there is any.

Consequently, our country is of course in need of proper Land Use Planning. It is a country full of islands after all and the only way to get around would be the apt zoning of locations coupled with a good navigator and you’re set. I myself have learned that the fragmentation of this country can actually be detrimental to our national identity. It is literally fragmenting the society. Within this light Land Use planning can help ameliorate certain dilemmas concerning land vis-à-vis establishment agendas and hopefully break the line separating people from each other.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

LAND USE AND THE DIRE NEED FOR AN EQUIVALENT LAW

By Jess Fabello (Kaisahan Intern)

I was a stranger to the dilemmas and issues that surround land use before I was exposed to it through my internship. When I heard of the term, I only thought of how land was simply utilized. But now, I understand it in a more different light. In a more complicated understanding of the term, it possesses three dimensions: political, economic and social.

Power and access to the government could be identified as being important political variables to dilemmas surrounding land use. In issues concerning land use, there are myriads of actors which are involved. The power which they wield and the access that they have to government varies, depends again on their economic and political stature. Politicians ideally serve as arbitrators to both parties, while upholding the interests of the general public.

Meanwhile, business interests affect also land use. It is they who utilize land for their operations. Most of the time also, they are the leading violators of environmental protection policies as they aim to maximize profitability in their operations. However, the environment is put to risk in these actions. Ideally, businesses should be able to reduce their carbon footprint and environmental impact. But switching to sustainable environmental practices comes at a cost to businesses, something which they would avoid if possible.

Finally, there is society. People are affected by the action of government and business actors. Depending on how these two powerful actors treat the environment, the public will either benefit from it or will get harmed. A good example of this would be urbanization. Urban expansion heralds the development of areas which are previously underdeveloped. This means that jobs and new spaces for economic activity are created. However it comes with a price. As rapid urban expansion continues to go unrestricted, society might start to feel the negative effects of urban life such as increasing crime rates, increasing population density and poor sanitation.

With land use possessing such dimensions which are intertwined with each other, I can therefore say that it needs to be better managed. In the case of the Philippines, the non-existence of a comprehensive land use law has precluded the chance for proper utilization of land and its treatment as a scarce resource. In a country blessed by mineral resources but at the same time located in an area where the danger of earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons and volcanic eruptions abound, the need for such a law is highlighted.

We have had seen for ourselves many natural disasters whose effects were magnified by the lack of preparedness. People become complacent because these disasters seem to be far from happening to their area; such conception has been proven wrong recently, with the advent and aftermath of Japan’s plight. This event crushed hearts and baffled minds as to how could such an event happen. But then again we need to also learn some hard lessons from this event.

Japan was pretty much prepared for earthquakes or tsunamis. The coastline has been sculpted to offer a certain degree of protection from tsunamis, while buildings are prepped up to endure punishment from earthquakes. Yet it still cost Japan thousands of lives and yen and has brewed a nuclear disaster that still continues to be unabated. Compared to Japan, the Philippines is ill prepared for such a disaster. Consider the Marikina Valley Fault. Ever since when I was a toddler who could understand adults, my mother always warned me that one day a mighty earthquake will shake up Metro Manila and will cost us hundreds of thousands of lives and perhaps billions of pesos. Until now, I have not forgotten this. I always think of the time bomb underneath Metro Manila, waiting to move at God’s discretion.

I wonder why Filipinos do not think of the possibility that such disasters may happen in the near future, on our own soil. Maybe we are dampened by our busy lives that forget to take note of our surroundings. We often immerse ourselves in human affairs that the environment and the spiritual come only at times when our reality has been badly shaken up. In this situation, there arises the need for rules and regulations to be created and enforced. This is to remind us of our responsibility to the environment and the threats that our irresponsibility might bring upon us and others.

I heard this saying before and I found it to be applicable to our dilemma with land use: Mas mabuti na ang maagap kaysa sa masikap.