Land Use Bill to worsen hunger, activists say

Activist groups are protesting a priority bill in Congress proposing a new national land use plan they say would further reduce agricultural lands and endanger food self sufficiency in the Philippines.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (KADAMAY), Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), Kalikasan and other groups held a protest rally last Monday, May 22, ahead of the bill’s third and final reading at the House of Representatives.

KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos said that House Bill 8162, also called the National Land Use Bill, is part of the Marcos government’s pro-business and pro-foreign legislative measures.

“To quote primary sponsor Siargao Rep. Bingo Matugas: ‘This bill being passed into law will be a sure-fire game-changer in terms of foreign investment for the Philippines,’” Ramos said.

“So, again we ask Congress — for whose interest will the National Land Use Bill serve? Ang paggamit dapat ng mga kalupaan at natural resources ng bansa ay para sa mga Pilipino at tunay na pag-unlad ng bayan,” Ramos added.

KMP revealed that the bill aims to amend the classification of land used for food production from “agricultural” to “production development” that would include properties earmarked as industrial and tourism.

“Maaaring pahintulutan nito ang pagtatayo ng commercial establishments sa mga sakahan dahil pareho na itong saklaw ng lupang pamproduksyon. Sa kongkreto, nangangahulugan ito ng pagpapalayas sa mga magsasaka at pagwasak sa mga sakahan,” Ramos explained.

Activists protesting the National Land Use Bill at the House of Representatives. (Photo by Joseph Cuevas/Kodao)

KMP said that between 1990 and 2000, agricultural land has already decreased by a total of 94,000 hectares. Meanwhile, built-up areas such as urban, residential, commercial properties have undergone the fastest average annual expansion, increasing by over 37,000 hectares during the same period.

The group also cited Census of Agriculture and Fisheries data, revealing farm areas decreased by 2.67 million hectares from 1991 to 2012.

Ramos said the bill would result in smaller agricultural production, worsening hunger and further reliance on foreign investments if passed into law. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)