PCUP chief Ridon opposes reversal of land conversion ban
Quezon City, Philippines, Oct. 14, 2016 – "Only large real estate developers and multinationals stand to gain from a reversal of the President's moratorium on the land use conversion of agricultural lands." This was the statement of Terry Ridon, chair of the Presidential and Commission for the Urban Poor in response to appeals by several members of the Duterte Cabinet for President Rodrigo Duterte to reconsider his decision to issue a moratorium on land use conversion.
Vice President Leni Robredo called on President Rodrigo Duterte to cancel the government's plan to issue a moratorium on the conversion of agricultural lands, as proposed by Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Rafael Mariano.
Robredo said on Thursday, October 13, that the proposed ban will "further delay the housing and resettlement processes."
"By unnecessarily locking up the land resources for two years, including those that were already identified as suitable for socialized housing, this will make our mission far more difficult in solving the growing problem of homelessness," the Vice President stressed.
Ridon, who sits in the HUDCC which Robredo chairs, said that the remedy was not to stop the issuance of a moratorium but to consider socialized housing projects as the only exception to the ban.
"Change has not come to our agricultural farmers if we will insist that food security and social justice should suffer at the whims of real estate moguls and multinationals." Ridon said.
Ridon said that real estate tycoons should not hide behind the need for massive socialized housing for the urban poor.
"The Vice President is correct that homelessness is a persistent problem for the urban poor. But we should remember that the status quo has prevented many agricultural lands from being used for socialized housing as well. We believe that socialized housing as the only exception to the moratorium will balance the benefits between the rural and urban poor."
Ridon said the main problem in agrarian reform was the dizzying pace of land use conversions, for other uses, to the exclusion of the poor Filipino farmer.
"In the main, land use conversions were made not for socialized housing but for the construction of provincial malls, golf courses, residential subdivisions and resorts."
Socialized housing as exception to moratorium
Ridon said he was open to consider socialized housing as among the exceptions to the moratorium.
"But nothing more. The percentages of land use conversion would show that a great majority were done precisely to skirt land distribution to poor farmers. The moratorium will give them the social justice denied our farmers since the start of CARP in the first Aquino administration."
The Department of Finance (DOF) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) are also not in favor of the moratorium.
Ridon said he has full trust that the President will not reconsider the moratorium on land use conversion.
"The President has proven in the first hundred days that closest to his heart will always be the welfare of the ordinary Filipino. As with his war on drugs, we believe he will also stake his life and presidency for our Filipino farmers."
Atty. Terry Ridon
Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor