A critique of the pending National Land Use Act (Senate Bill 3091) Part II

Continuing from Part I, the smart growth planning principles in light of the goal toward the triple bottomline (i.e. environment + economic + social success) are

Integrated or mixed land uses
Compact building design
A range (as opposed to one-size-fits-all) of housing opportunities
Walkable neighborhoods
Sense of place
Preservation of open space and natural beauty
Community involvement
New growth in existing developed areas or in-fill development
Multiple transportation options
Cost effectiveness

The country’s development and growth agenda, raising employment, addressing housing demand, preservation of open and green space, less use of carbon, efficient use of energy, a sense of place and community, inclusive growth, high and sustainable economic growth, competitive world class cities, which on the ground translates into quality of life and sustainable ecosystems, are premised on an efficient and effective – smart – use of land.

The traditional uses of land which is the implementation spirit (and which was the practice in the absence of a national land use law) of the National Land Use Act, as with the calamity response and management focus of PD 1566 (as opposed to the DRR paradigm in the new RA 10121), has seen its time and in need of reorientation to current realities. The Philippines cannot achieve its goal of globally competitive and sustainable economy, people, and places on an economic system and technology of, using an analogy, carabao-and-plough farming. The country would need the right perspective and tools. How, for example, will the country achieve inclusive growth from use of the land? What does inclusive growth look like in space/spatially?

NEDA will have in place a national spatial strategy. This is therefore the best time to align national, regional, and local planning systems, documents, and goals toward smart growth. But unless smart growth is made a national direction, the best that we can have in its absence is patches of smart growth communities that stand in glaring contrast to less smart communities in the perimeters.

Bonifacio Global City, for one, is the ideal community (meaning, the rhetoric of quality of life is achieved here) in terms of, one, adequate pedestrian space, but go to the communities or villages in its perimeters and my goodness there is virtually no space for the pedestrian. Walking is at your own risk. Making smart growth as a national direction firms up the right of every human being (Filipino) to quality of life, not just to the few who can afford to live in a PHP800 (USD17) per square meter community.

New York legalized smart growth in 2010 the passage of which according to the Governor is an attainment of the plan that “smart Growth should be regular protocol in state government, and not just a vague theory.” The EU is guided by the principles of smart growth. Its targets for smart growth are focused on education, research/innovation, and a digital society – these the Union has spatially conceptualized through its Member-Countries’ spatial strategies which are premised on smart growth principles. In East Asia, Singapore takes the lead: its spatial strategies and therefore land uses are premised on smart growth principles. In South Asia, South Korea’s Green Growth Policy is, according to the World Bank, premised on smart growth principles and the “need for tailoring strategies to the country’s needs and argues that every country has opportunities to grow green without slowing growth”.

The lesson which we can learn from these country examples is, attainment of the triple bottomline starts with how we perceive, in policy terms, land or a parcel of land. If we perceive it as a hand-to-mouth resource a carabao and a plough will do. If we perceive it as a resource that will bring in wealth and sustain Filipinos into the future, the tools will need to be more sophisticated.

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