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Land-use planning found focused on short term

[ ] June 27, 2011

In the Philippines, land and natural resources provide the basis for rural livelihoods, tourism development and agricultural productivity, and access to them is a strong predictor for poverty alleviation.

Because of this, the German development agency Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) is helping build capacities and public awareness on land-use planning and land management.

The project also supports the implementation of a coherent national strategy for land reform.

Dr. Andreas Lange, chief adviser on local governance of GIZ, said not all local government units realize the importance of land distribution.

"The necessity of such has probably to do with the effect that land has always been abundant and it has never really been a problem. Land has always been around and food has been plenty. But I think the Philippines and its ecosystem have already reached a very critical state over the past 10 years, not only in the forest but also in the agriculture system. Productivity is not keeping up with other countries such as Thailand or Indonesia," said Lange.

"How can you not start planning when certain territories double or triple in the number of population? That’s what I mean by medium- or long-term orientation," he said.

Since land areas are not planned and managed efficiently – from forest to sea – the country’s natural resources continue to dwindle and are continuously degraded.

Water supply, food security for a growing population, reducing conversion of agricultural lands into other uses, providing settlement and minimizing risks from disasters are common issues being faced today by most municipalities around the country, he said.

"The LGUs we’re working with directly and indirectly are very supportive of the process and they have realized that this is quite beneficial to them. The economic terms of protection of national resources do not always mean that somebody is losing out. It actually means the opposite, actually everyone wins, but it’s just actually a more medium- or long-term approach," Lange said.

Dr. Herwig Mayer, program manager of GIZ’s decentralization program, said the short-term orientation of most land-use programs is rooted in the electoral system.

"When there are LGU elections which are every three years, that is the only time when politicians act on short-term projects. Land use is very important, and this is why the planning periods are normally set in about 10 years," said Mayer.

He estimated that the country’s population will be 120 million by the year 2020 and that the pressure on the land has become exceptional.

"Particularly in the city and in the metros, it is sort of mushrooming and uncontrolled. The build-up has to stop, otherwise Metro Manila will not survive another typhoon Ondoy," Mayer said.

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