PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III’s declaration to implement land use planning is a must today, as hodgepodge development unfolds in the country.

Several states in the US, including Hawaii, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Washington, Vermont, Florida, California, Pennsylvania and Oregon, have attempted to develop and in some cases have implemented laws for land use planning and control.

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Japan is the only country with comprehensive planning and zoning. The entire nation is divided into five major land use zones: urban, agricultural, parks, nature reserves and forests.

During the 1960s, Belgium, West Germany and the Netherlands passed laws establishing guidelines for land use, but left the actual planning to the localities.

Canada has also developed a fairly comprehensive land use planning program. It’s about time the Philippines has its own land use planning program in order to protect its

environment. To maintain its pristine environment, there is a need to set ecological planning as a goal.

After PNoy’s declaration of a land use program, it is the responsibility of Congress to legislate both urban and non-urban land use and control plans. The first step in the development of a comprehensive land use plan is to gather geological, biological and sociological data on each province and the use of each parcel of land. These data are used to make projections about how Filipinos may need to use the land in the future, and this information is evaluated to determine the best present and future use

for each parcel of land.

Four major methods are used to make projections and develop a land use plan: (1) extrapolation of existing trends, (2) reaction to crisis, (3) systems analysis and modeling and (4) ecological planning. The steps involved in the development of a comprehensive land use plan require a strong political will and sufficient funding for its success.

To illustrate, our country’s desire to boost tourism raises the need to isolate areas where the environment should remain pristine and where no industries that could cause pollution will be allowed to enter.

The artificial political boundaries of cities, towns and provinces bear little relation to the natural airsheds, watersheds and ecosystems in each region.

As a result, land use planning and control in one area may be undercut by lack of planning or by planning with opposite goals in surrounding areas.

The environmental destruction of our country’s resources is one of the major concerns of PNoy. There should, in fact, be ecological land use planning that consists of: (1) making an environmental and social inventory; (2) determining goals and their relative importance; (3) producing individual and composite maps; and (4,5,6) developing, evaluating and implementing a comprehensive plan.

The problems associated with ecological land use planning include difficulties in getting reliable scientific, economic and social data; assessing aesthetic and ecological factors; lack of effective means for implementing land use plans; and political conflicts between those with differing ethical views on how land should be used.

In ecological or any other form of land use planning, decisions to grant permits for residential, commercial, industrial or any other use are normally made by the nation’s thousands of separate city governments.

Unfortunately, these local governments do not have the money, staff and information needed to do comprehensive land use planning.

The political leaders of the Province of Cebu should have the foresight to support PNoy’s declaration to implement a nationwide land use plan, by setting up in Cebu an advisory council of government, to draw up and coordinate integrated land use plans for the entire island.

It is time for Cebu’s civic, professional and trade organizations to lobby the government to support the council for expertise and funds, and to legalize the authority to implement decisions.

Cebu’s self-proclaimed environmentalists could help make ecological inventories of their natural communities and the plant and animal life they contain.

Such information can be useful in development comprehensive land use policies at the provincial, regional and national levels.