By Cai Ordinario, January 23, 2020; Business Mirror

The passage of National Land Use Act (NLUA) and Philippine Maritime Zones Act are included in the list of priority legislation in the last three years of the Duterte administration, according to the country’s socioeconomic planning agency.

In a briefing on Monday, a National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) official said other bills include the amendment of the Consumer Act to include e-commerce, e-vehicles, and Local Population Development Act, among others.

Neda Undersecretary for Policy and Planning Rosemarie G. Edillon said the time frame for passing these bills is this year to ensure they are passed before the campaign for the 2022 election season starts.

“Of course [we are pushing for the passage of all] the economic bills, the strengthening [of] the culture of planning in the country and the NLUA bill, [those are my] top 5 bills. Disaster resiliency bill should also be included,” Edillon said.

The list of priority bills also include those that will improve the investment climate, such as amendments to the Public Services Act and the Retail Trade Liberalization Act.

There are also bills to support culture, such as the modernization of the national library and those that seek to improve disaster risk reduction and management through the legislation of the proposed Evacuation Center Act.

Land use
NLUA has been languishing in Congress for the past 30 years, which means four administrations have failed to pass the law.

Neda Undersecretary for Regional Development Adoracion M. Navarro said the administration is keen on having the law passed despite the suggestion of some Cabinet members to create an Executive Order (EO) first.

Navarro said, however, Neda is ready with the draft EO which will be discussed in the Cabinet assistance system meeting on January 22, Wednesday.

She explained that the EO was initially drafted to implement existing laws related to land use without having to wait for legislation.

The only things the government cannot implement under an EO are the additional sanctions, restrictions and additional programs which need funding.

“It was expressed by certain members of the Cabinet that we might [encounter difficulties] at the Senate but Neda is ready to present our arguments before the House and the Senate,” Navarro said.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said passing the NLUA has been deemed a priority by the President in his State of the Nation Address (Sona) since assuming office in 2016.

Navarro said while the legislature will ultimately decide on the fate of the NLUA, the Neda’s draft EO, which was crafted with other agencies, will contain the executive’s input on the NLUA.

Maritime resources
Meanwhile, Neda officials explained that the proposed Philippine Maritime Zones Act will help the Philippines harness the potential of the blue economy.

In a presentation at the Makati Business Club (MBC) forum in June 2016, Pernia said the blue economy, based on a previous study made by the Marine Science Institute, was conservatively estimated to be at P1 trillion.

Pernia said the blue economy includes fisheries, corals, marine life, biodiversity, and other natural resources found in the sea. He said the blue economy accounts for 70 percent of the country’s territory.

However, the estimated value of P1 trillion only included the country’s tapped sea economy. There is no telling how much the sea economy can contribute to the gross domestic product without a proper and complete accounting.

“There’s a lot of interest now in the so-called blue economy. In fact there’s a lot of talk, we need to pay more attention on the blue economy. We have really undertapped, under exploited, under used the value of the blue economy,” Pernia said on Monday.