President Duterte calls for urgent passage of National Land Use Act

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The President delivers his third State of the Nation Address.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 23) — President Rodrigo Duterte emphasized the importance of preserving the environment in his third Station of the Nation Address (SONA) with an appeal to the Senate to fast-track the signing of a new land use policy.

In his third SONA Monday, the President cited the recent effort of the government to rehabilitate the island of Boracay as an indication of the urgent need to protect the country's natural resources.

"I urge the Senate to urgently pass the National Land Use Act to put in place a national land use policy that will address our competing land requirements for food, housing business, and environmental conservation," he said. "We need to do this now."

"What has happened to Boracay is an indication of the need to rationalize [in a] holistic, sustainable manner, the utilization, management and development of our lands," the President added.

The government temporarily closed Boracay earlier this year to give way to its rehabilitation. It is expected to reopen on October 27, six months after its closure. Duterte earlier called the world-famous tourist destination "a cesspool," and threatened to shut it down permanently if its pollution problem went unsolved.

He put an emphasis on the government's priority to protect the environment in its efforts to improve the lives of Filipinos. He hinted that other tourist destinations in the country may also undergo rehabilitation.

"Environmental protection and ensuring the health of our people cannot be over-emphasized. Thus our actions in Boracay mark the beginning of a new national effort...For the other tourists destination needing rehabilitation and enforcement of environmental and other laws shall soon follow," he said.

The President reminded local government units to strictly discharge their duty to enforce environmental laws.

"Do not wait for us to swoop down on your areas, just to do your duty and work," Duterte said.

During his second SONA in 2017, Duterte briefly mentioned the National Land Use Act, calling for a rational and sustainable use of land and physical resources.

The House of Representatives crafted several versions of the National Land Use Act during the 17th Congress' first session in March 2017.

Congress approved House Bill 5240, or "An act instituting a national land use and management policy providing the implementing mechanisms therefor, and for other purposes," in substitution of other proposed house bills tackling land use.

The Senate filed a counter bill in July 2017, authored by Senator Migz Zubiri, for the "rational, holistic and just allocation, utilization, management and development of our land resources."