Land conversion ban reversal to benefit only developers–PCUP head
Reversing the government’s plan to ban the conversion of agricultural lands for two years will only benefit real estate moguls and multinationals, Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP) chair Terry Ridon said on Friday.
Contrary to the stand of Vice President Leni Robredo and other government agencies seeking to reconsider the issuance of the moratorium on land use conversion, Ridon said in a statement: “Only large real estate developers and multinationals stand to gain from a reversal of the President’s moratorium on the land use conversion of agricultural lands.”
Ridon, who sits in the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) which Robredo chairs, said the remedy was “not to stop the issuance of a moratorium but to consider socialized housing projects as the only exception to the ban.”
“Change has not come to our agricultural farmers if we will insist that food security and social justice should suffer at the whims of real estate moguls and multinationals.” Ridon said.
Robredo, together with the Department of Finance (DOF), Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), signed the petition to reconsider the issuance of the EO banning land conversion for two years, saying this will hurt the homeless.
Robredo said the measure would “introduce further delays in the housing and resettlement processes, which will exacerbate the insurmountable housing backlog that we are working to address.”
The Vice President said implementing the ban would further delay the housing agency’s efforts in areas affected by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” and other disaster-stricken areas, since these sites are mostly within agricultural zones.
She also expressed concern that it might drive up the prices of residential lands and consequently, reduce significantly the supply of low-cost housing.
“By unnecessarily locking up the land resources for two years, including those that were already identified as suitable for socialized housing, this will make our mission far more difficult in solving the growing problem of homelessness,” she added.
The former Makabayan bloc lawmaker also told real estate tycoons that they should “not hide behind the need for massive socialized housing for the urban poor.”
“The Vice President is correct that homelessness is a persistent problem for the urban poor. But we should remember that the status quo has prevented many agricultural lands from being used for socialized housing as well. We believe that socialized housing as the only exception to the moratorium will balance the benefits between the rural and urban poor.”
The main problem in agrarian reform, according to Ridon, was the “dizzying pace of land use conversions, for other uses, to the exclusion of the poor Filipino farmer.”
“In the main, land use conversions were made not for socialized housing but for the construction of provincial malls, golf courses, residential subdivisions and resorts,” he said.
But Ridon said socialized housing could be one of the exceptions to the moratorium.
“But nothing more. The percentages of land use conversion would show that a great majority were done precisely to skirt land distribution to poor farmers. The moratorium will give them the social justice denied our farmers since the start of Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program in the first Aquino administration.”
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