BAGUIO CITY – NEDA-CAR and the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (DRRMC) met last January 16 and 25 to discuss the immediate and long-term rehabilitation and recovery plan for the Cordillera region resulting from damages brought by Typhoon Ompong in September last year. Members urged the importance of research and development projects for disaster preparedness, mitigation, and resiliency.

Recommendation

NEDA-CAR proposed a land use framework to be used by local government units and implementing agencies of the region. The framework includes the possible expansion of land development in the region. Currently, the region is limited by Presidential Decree 705 which declares that lands 18 percent and above in slope as forest land and therefore not open for titling or development. Data shows that as of 2015, 85 percent of the total land area of the Cordillera is forest land which limits the potential for production and settlement. PD 705 also did not consider that the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera have developed the areas above 18 percent slope for agricultural crops, structures, townships, and communities for centuries. NEDA-CAR recommended the use and development of lands of up to 50 percent slope subject to strict implementation of vulnerability reduction measures. According to DENR-CAR and the Regional Development Plan 2017-2022, as much as an additional 7.5 percent or 119,182.4 hectares of land may be used for settlements and agriculture projects.

Research and Development

The body proposed a region-wide study on the soil bearing capacity, cohesion and friction angle for appropriate infrastructure design as the top research priority for disaster mitigation in the Cordillera. The research aims to make sure that the development of lands above 18 percent shall be subject to appropriate vulnerability reduction measures.

Other studies include the design of resettlement areas and resilient housing, the feasibility of underground power lines, and the feasibility of alternative transport systems in CAR.

Conclusion

Based on the Regional Physical Framework Plan (2004-2034) the proposed land use framework emphasized the avoidance of hazardous and environmentally critical areas. “In extreme cases, the option not to develop steep and hazardous areas may be the best development option”, NEDA added. PD 705 effectively dispossessed several indigenous peoples of their ancestral domain and is viewed as a restrictive law in terms of development and rights of the Cordillerans.