Salt industry in crisis: Villar fuming over DENR exec invoking Land Use Act
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Cynthia Villar’s feathers were ruffled on Wednesday when a DENR official cited the Land Use Act in response to her query about the decreasing salt production in the country.
At the Senate committee on agriculture, food, and agrarian reform hearing, Villar quizzed whether the designated land for salt making had diminished along with the production, which has plummeted from 240,000 metric tons in the 1970s to the present 42,000 metric tons.
DENR Land Management Division chief Alex Pascua replied: “Unfortunately, I couldn’t make a categorical response because up to now, we do not have a Land Use Act.”
Pascua’s answer did not sit well with Villar, the panel chairperson.
“No, it’s not the Land Use Act. My God, how you answer me. I’m so surprised that’s why I don’t want to do this hearing anymore sometimes,” she said.
“Because when you answer me, I’m so surprised on how you answer me. Ba’t mo ibe-blame ang Land Use Act? Sinabi mo nang ikaw ang nagbibigay ng permit for them to use them as salt beds. Tapos ituturo mo na naman ‘yung Land Use Act,” she pointed out.
(Why would you blame the Land Use Act? You already said that you issue permits for them to use lands as salt beds. Then you will point to the Land Use Act.)
READ: Ilocos salt industry losing its savor
Villar, whose family business is to develop the land into residential or commercial ventures, explained her reservations about the measure.
“Alam mo ‘yung Land Use Act, sasabihin ko sa’yo — baka pinariringgan mo — kaya hindi ko pinapasa ‘yun, ‘yung Land Use Act, it is in the power of local government to determine their land use, they want to transfer it to the national government,” she said.
(You know the Land Use Act — you may be alluding — I have reservations because it will transfer the power to determine their land use from the local government to the national government.)
“So, it’s a conflict between the local government and the national government. I don’t want to be in the middle of the conflict,” she said.
Villar further said that she disagrees “that the national government will be better than the local government” as the latter know their land better.
The Land Use Act ensures that the country’s 30 million hectares of land and inland waters will not all be turned into commercial establishments such as subdivisions and parking lots.
READ: Protect Masungi, pass national land use act now
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