CREBA Cautions On Proposed National Land Use Act

Housing developers yesterday cautioned the government on the ill effects of the proposed National Land Use Act (NLUA) because it seeks to forever ban conversion of agricultural lands that would only undermine the country's economic boom in which the property development sector is a major growth driver.

In a press conference, officials of the Chamber of Real Estate and Builders Association (CREBA), the largest real estate umbrella organization in the country, slammed the haste in the approval and crafting of House Bill 6545 or the proposed National Land Use and Management Act (NLUMA) even claiming they were not consulted about it.

The bill was approved on third reading in the House of Representatives just before the Christmas break and is expected to pass in the Senate.

"As crafted, the NLUA will negatively affect Philippine global competitiveness; the ability to provide decent homes for our local workers and OFWs; the dynamic growth of the BPO industry; the confidence that sustains the continuing inflow of OFW remittances; the resurgence of tourism and agribusiness, along with their upstream and downstream industrial linkages; and many other enterprises that are contributing to the vibrancy of our national economy," CREBA said in a prepared statement.

CREBA national president Charlie V. Gorayeb explained that while the proposed bill will not hurt condominium housing projects in the urban areas, the bill will definitely slow down subdivision projects particularly socialized housing in the countryside, where most of the lands have been classified as agricultural.

Gorayeb said that CREBA understands the need for food security in crafting the NLUA but the bill was so encompassing that there would be no room for their industry.

"We have a huge housing backlog for our growing population. If we have this bill that only addresses one side of society we might be creating more problems than solving them. We don't have problem with addressing food security but we should also address housing needs," he said.

Paul Tanchi, president of the Subdivision and Housing Developers Association, Inc. (SHDA), said the proposed measure has become more restrictive because it makes all agricultural lands protected forever from conversion.

"What if in the future there are new changes in the use of a particular property, we cannot develop that anymore because it is banned from conversion," he said.

He said that its study conducted in 2008 showed that only 0.06 percent of all agricultural lands in the country have been converted.

Tanchi questioned the provision that requires land developers to go through the Department of Agrarian Reform when the NLUA has provided for the creation of a National Land Use Planning Council for land conversion.

Atty. Ryan L. Tan, president of the Organization of Socialized Housing Developers of the Philippines Inc., said the socialized housing projects, which are mostly located in the provinces would be affected as there would be a slowdown in project development.

Also, he said, socialized housing developers have no government incentives making it more difficult for them to pursue this kind of development once the bill is passed.

Benigno T. Cabrieto Jr., president of the National Real Estate Association, Inc. (NREA), said that since there would be a slowdown in housing developments in the countryside, urban migration could worsen.