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Land use bill stalled by Senate bickering


VOTE OF CONFIDENCE Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile slams critics by name for allegedly putting the upper chamber “under a dark cloud of suspicion as a house of thieves” over the purported “Christmas bonus” issue. His motion to declare his post vacant is turned down by a majority (11-3) of senators. He remains the nation’s third most powerful official. JOSEPH VIDAL/CONTRIBUTOR

KIDAPAWAN CITY, North Cotabato, Philippines  – A group calling for the passage of the land use bill has asked senators to make laws and stop bickering over issues that can be discussed later.

“We expected to witness the approval of the Land Use Bill on second reading Thursday and instead we were caught in a crossfire that did not involve lawmaking. Senators, please get on with your job,” Anthony Marzan, convenor of Campaign for Land Use Policy Now! (CLUP Now!), said in a statement here.

Marzan said supporters of the National Land Use Bill (NLUA) could not help but be dismayed at the senators’ bickering over the unequal distribution of additional funds that was released by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile in December.

“We grow more and more anxious for the fate of NLUA,” Marzan said.

“This important bill has been languishing in Congress for more than two decades now and it is now being put on hold, along with other important laws, over an ill-timed scandal,” the visibly irate Marzan added.

“By 2015, our population will hit the 100 million mark already. The government continues to ignore the loss of farmland and water sources from rapid urbanization and climate change. We need to preserve our agricultural land and critical watersheds as soon as possible if we are to survive this century. This is a major goal that the National Land Use Policy aims to achieve,” Marzan said.

The NLUA has been scheduled for deliberations since January 21 but no single amendment took place because of the senators’ disagreement over the release of additional ‘maintenance and operating expenses’ (MOOE).

On January 23, the NLUA again was scheduled for deliberations but was sideswiped anew, with Senator Alan Peter Cayetano giving a privilege speech countered by Enrile.

“We respect the need for the Senate members to exact transparency and accountability from its leaders, but this is not the right time or place. There are only six session days left. Please pass the laws that this nation needs, such as the NLUA,” Marzan appealed.

At present, a total of 35 bills are awaiting the action of the Senate, including the bills on Strengthening the Witness Protection Program, Security and Benefit Program, Comprehensive Regulation of Firearms, Light Weapons, and Ammunitions, and the NLUA.

The NLUA was first filed in 1992 during the 9th Congress. After more than two decades, House Bill 6545 or the National Land Use and Management Act, was finally passed on the third and final reading in the Lower House last September 2012.

It now awaits approval on second reading in the Senate and, finally, its ratification before the 3rd regular session of the 15th Congress adjourns.

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Tags: Anthony Marzan , Campaign for Land Use Policy Now , government funds , Graft and Corruption , Legislation , maintenance , National Land Use Bill , News , NLUA , operating and other expenses , Philippine Congress , Politics , Senate , State Budget and Taxes

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