The Land Is Not Growing, Population Is. Lecture Series #6

By Henry Libo-on of Earthniversity.

Because of the notion that land is not growing but the population does, there is a need for an efficient and effective land resources management.  Developed countries have put to use the ideas of sustainable land management a long time ago.  Likewise, developing and third world countries are doing their share of using land with greater effectiveness and efficiency to answer their growing needs as their population increases.


The coastal area of Talofofo, in the vicinity of Jeff’s Pirate Cove, facing the vast Pacific Ocean, Eastern side of Guam, U.S.A. Photo by Henry C. Libo-on (Guam Island, My Home).

The land is the number one asset of any country, state, province, city or township. State must have greater control as to how the land is utilized. Control implies development control through zoning, land use planning and to a certain extent efficient and effective land resources management.  The land is an area of ground which, to a government’s point of view, is designated for certain purpose or Land Use.  The following are examples of Land Uses.

  • Agricultural land – is used for agricultural productivity like farming for rice, peanuts, oranges, pineapples, bananas, sugarcane, mangoes, durian, even its conversion to fishponds for milkfish, tilapia and prawn production and many others.


Rice Drying, Talisay City. Photo by Henry C. Libo-on, Lanzones Festival at Concepcion, Talisay City.


Sugarcane are loaded to trucks for delivery to the nearest sugar mill, Talisay, Philippines.
  •  Commercial land use – refers to land being used for commercial activities like malls, markets, offices, theaters, and many others


Business District, Park, Forest Reserve, Guam, U.S.A.
  • Institutional land use – means that the land is used by institutions like schools, hospitals, government’s office buildings – capitols, city or town halls, fire station, police station,  and others.


Provincial Capitol of Negros Occidental and Capitol Lagoon Park. (All Photos in this blog, by Henry C. Libo-on)
  • Residential land use – refers to land uses for human settlements, subdivisions, housing, condominiums, and apartments among others.
  • Industrial land use – means that the land is used by industries like power plants, manufacturing, and processing of goods and products, recycling plant, and many others.
  • Recreational land use – refers to land used for various sports and recreational activities, playgrounds, and parks, among others.


Statue of Liberty at Liberty Park, Guam, U.S.A.


Open spaces are also identified by the LGU.  Here are the examples of open spaces as described by Wikipedia:

  • Open Spaces – refers to areas that are reserved for future use.  It also means that no such development sits on it for an indefinite period of time.
  • Landscape – areas of land without human-built structures
  • Open space reserve, areas of protected or conserved land on which development is indefinitely set aside.
  • Urban open space – urban areas of protected or conserved land on which development is also set aside.
  • Greenway landscape – a linear chain of open space reserve.
  • Public space – areas left open for the use of the public, such as a piazza, plaza, park, and courtyard.


Public Cemetery, Guam, U.S.A.
  • Protected Areas  – are managed by the state government agencies like the Department of Environment and Natural Resource, in the Philippines setting.  Then, the DENR has its own bureau, the Environment, and Natural Resources’ Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau which is governed by NIPAS Act of 1992.  NIPAS is National Integrated Areas System.   As of 2012, there are 240 protected areas in the Philippines covering a total area of 35,700 square kilometers – 11.9% of the Philippines’ total land area.


(Photo shows the Sleeping Giant, a mountain located in the 22,202 hectares managed and protected area in the island province of Palawan.  Underneath this mountain is the St. Paul Subterranean River, popularly known as Puerto Princesa Underground River, the current 7 Wonders of Nature.    Photo by Henry C. Libo-on)

History of Philippine Legislation regarding the current national parks and protected areas.

  1. Philippine Commission Act No. 648 was enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1903.  At this time, the Philippines is a territory of the United States.  This act authorized the Civil Governor to “reserve for public purposes, and from sale or settlement, any part of the public domain not appropriated by law for special public purposes.  (Source: Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia)
  2. These areas are the following:  La Carlota Reserve in Negros Occidental; Angat River Reserve in Bulacan, San Ramon Reserve in Zamboanga, Magalang Reserve in Pampanga, Hacienda San Antonio in Isabela, Mariquina Reserve in Rizal Province.  July 26, 1904.
  3. On November 21, 1910, Forest Act of 1904 (Act No. 1148) was expanded to include the mountain forest reserves of Mount Makiling.  (Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia)

You might wonder how this happened?  On December 10, 1898, Spain, after its defeat in the Spanish-American War, ceded the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico to the United States by virtue of the Treaty of Paris.  The Philippines was, therefore, a Territory of the United States until the time when the U.S. Congress declared the Philippines its Commonwealth status but again, granted the Philippines’ independence on July 4, 1946.

Best Practice:   Australia’s National Reserve System   

NRS is Australia’s network of protected areas, conserving examples of natural landscapes and native plants and animals for future generations.  Based on a scientific framework, it is the nation’s natural safety net against our biggest environmental challenge.

Sustainable Land Management This refers to managing land without damaging ecological processes or reducing biological diversity.  It requires the maintenance of the following key components of the environment:

  1. Biodiversity:  the variety of species, populations, habitats, and ecosystem;
  2. Ecological Integrity:  the general health and resilience of natural life-support systems, including their ability to assimilate wastes and withstand stresses such as climate change and ozone depletion; and
  3. Natural Capital: the stock of productive soil, fresh water, forests, clean air, ocean, and other renewable resources that underpin the survival, health, and prosperity of human communities.

The land is often managed for multiple benefits, such as agricultural production, biodiversity conservation, water quality, soil health and supporting human life.  To ensure long-term sustainability, land managers need to consider economic, social and environmental factors. (Source:  Government Australia, Department of Environment Website)


1.  When I went to Australia in October 2000, that was about a month after the Sydney Olympics was held,  my classmates were telling me about this area at the Olympics Stadium or Olympic Park, that used to be a habitat of native frogs.  After a debate on what to do with this habitat, my classmates continued to tell me, the contractors had this habitat moved to another area.  That new area replicated the previous habitat of these frogs.  It was only then, that the construction of the Sydney Olympics Stadium or Park was totally completed.   I think this is what is implied in the previous topic entitled Sustainable Land Management.   This refers to “managing land without damaging ecological processes or reducing biological diversity”.  So, when classes ended at the University of Canberra, I went back to Manila.  At the Sydney International Airport or Kingsford Smith International Airport, I was surprised to see the huge sculpture of a frog in the vicinity of the coffee shop and pre-departure area.  That frog was a Bell Frog.  Its colors were hues of green and a little gold.  The story goes that when Captain Cook’s party arrived in Australia’s Botany Bay,  these frogs were the first animals they saw.  So, when I left Sydney, the Bell Frog was the last animal I saw before flying out of Australia.

2.  When I had my 5 days OJT at the City of Queanbeyan, NSW,  Australia, their urban planner accompanied me to the new housing development.  I asked him why a tree and other weeds or grasses were still on the ground.  He explained to me that this situation was being processed by the Department of the Environment because the tree might be an old tree and the weeds or grasses might be endemic only to Australia or endangered species.  They do not want to destroy these.  Wow, I was impressed at how they operate.  That is why, until today, Australia’s Best Practices ring a bell to me whenever I talk about the environment and sustainable development.

3.  Cemetery Land Use is often a forgotten kind of land use.  The choice of land to be used as a cemetery is very important because if the LGU will make a mistake, the cemetery might occupy a very strategic piece of land for future development or sooner or later, an expensive piece of land.   It is not a wise decision that in the future the dead will be competing with the living if a mistake was made in the past by locating the cemetery in the center of the high development area.  It is our culture to respect our departed loved ones, specifically where they are rested.  A choice of a cemetery must consider distance or accessibility, peace, and tranquility,  etc.  It could also be possible for LGUs who had a closed landfill, to use it as a cemetery and surround it with more trees and plants.  Other LGUs use it as a baseball field.

4.  Most cities who do not have a Land Use Plan have been encouraged by the Government of the Philippines to formulate their own  CLUP or Comprehensive Land Use Plan.  Under the auspices or assistance from foreign governments like Australia, some of these LGUs were able to complete their CLUPs.  If you are a local council official who knew that your town or city has a CLUP, you will be guided by this plan on how to make decisions on certain issues specially referring to urban planning, social sector (health and education included here), economic, infrastructure, tourism, housing, environment, sports and recreation, local administration, finance, local investment program, and zoning among others.  That is why, I encourage LGUs wherever you may be, to have this document done or revised.

5.  With almost all LGUs not only in the Philippines but in other parts of the world, specifically those in the Developing  or Third World Countries have their own Land Use Plan and Zoning Ordinance in place, there is a greater probability that Land Resources can be managed efficiently and effectively and each LGU moving towards Sustainable Land Management.


Tourists at the city center of Philadelphia – one of the oldest and yet modern urban centers in the United States. (Photo by Henry Libo-on).

What is Land Use Planning?

In my hometown, Bacolod City, in the Philippines, the city government uses Land Use Planning to order and regulate the use of land in an effective and efficient manner.  This land use planning is also based on established city ordinance and national laws.  The City of Bacolod has formulated its Comprehensive Land Use Plan in 2000.  It has a lifespan of 10 years,  it must have been revised at this time.

Actually, the term I used is “order and regulate” based on the description from Wikipedia to which I also agree.  An Order is used when public safety and welfare is at stake or when environmental impacts are greater than its benefits.

Regulate is used to imply that certain land cannot be used other than what the law prescribed. For example, industries cannot be built in the residential area or near housing and settlements. In another instance, housing and settlements cannot be built in the periphery or within the forest parks, national parks, and other similar categories.  However, things could change upon careful planning, study and legal authorization from the state or the LGU.

Land Use Plan of the Local Government Unit (LGU) must be formulated after a series of activities such as Community Consultations, where all stakeholders are involved.  This is best done through a workshop that may be entitled:  Strategic Planning Workshop on the Formulation of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan.  This is not a one-seating activity.  This StratPlan may be conducted 10 times.  For example, Bacolod City has 61 villages called “Barangay”.  So, in one StratPlan, six (6) villages will be involved with participants coming from all walks of life, so to speak.  Examples of participants are representatives from the academe, business, students, homeowners, builders, developers, community organizations, and many others.


Reclamation Area and Port, Bacolod City, Philippines.  Reclamation project started in the late 1960s. (Photo by Henry C. Libo-on at St. John Paul II Tower).

The input of this StratPlan will be written by a team of technical writers coming from the LGU.  In a way, they are making a Draft Land Use Plan based on the ideas taken from the community.  Once this draft is completed, another series of consultations will be held.  The team goes back to the 10 groups of the StratPlan and report to them what they have accomplished.  They will be asked to comment, add, minus, improve or whatever.  The team will do this until the whole 61 villages and their residents have been consulted on the draft land use plan.

Again, the technical writer will write or improve the Draft based on the second consultation.  After this is done, a final presentation to all these stakeholders will be conducted telling them that this is now the final document.  Approve? or Revise?  That remains to be seen, but mostly the stakeholders will approve the final draft.  It is their work after all.

The next activity in the series is the presentation of the final draft to the members of the Local Development Council.  In reality, some of them were already invited during the previous consultations and workshops, so they have some ideas.  After the presentation, the Local Development Council will pass a Resolution approving this Draft Land Use Plan for submission to the Local Chief Executive who will write a letter to the Local Council requesting them for their approval.

When the Local Chief Executive had submitted the draft to the Local Council, the Technical Team will request the Presiding Officer of the Council for a meeting or Presentation of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan.  Meaning, before the Council Meeting or Session will be held to deliberate on the CLUP, all the Council Members have already some ideas on what this Land Use Plan contains.  The deliberations in the Council, therefore, becomes easy.

The Council in Session will pass a Resolution approving the Draft Land Use Plan.  The implementing arm of the CLUP is the Zoning Plan found in the CLUP.  This will be deliberated by the Local Council for approval.  Their approval will come in the form of a Local Ordinance on Zoning.  This time, the CLUP’s Zoning Plan is now a local law and can only be revised by another Ordinance.   That Ordinance orders and regulates the way lands will be used.

The Local Chief Executive will then sign the Resolution and later the Ordinance relative to the Comprehensive Land Use Plan and its Zoning Plan.

For highly urbanized cities and provinces in the Philippines, Land Use Plan will be presented to the Regional Development Council and approved.  Then, it will be elevated to the national government agency – the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board or HLURB for approval.  For towns and cities, the presentation and approval are in the Provincial Government level only.


This is reclaimed land and was developed into a mega mall, the SM at Bacolod City, Philippines.

Bacolod City’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan of 2000 was presented and unanimously approved by the Board Members of HLURB.  But of course, there was a presentation to HLURB staff before the presentation to the Board.  This way, problems that may exist in the preparation of the maps and other details can be given attention or corrected, improved, revised or whatever.  One of the activities that needed focus, patience and accuracy is the preparation of Maps like land use map, infrastructure maps – electricity, water, road networks, bridges, ports (airport and seaport), and many others.


Part of Central Business District, Bacolod City showing the Bacolod Central Market and other commercial buildings around it.

In the final analysis, the human population is increasing but the land area of the Earth does not unless there will be a tectonic movement or other scientific phenomena that will influence the increase in the Earth’s land area.  So, in the meantime that countries or Local Government Units around the world are faced with the demand for more lands to answer the needs of its local population, there is also a need for them to efficiently and effectively manage their land resources.  By using the best practices from other countries like Australia and many others, LGUs can create a doable comprehensive land use plan and therefore achieve a higher level of sustainable land management.


In my hometown, Bacolod City Philippines, there is a move to sell one of its prime lots located at the Reclamation Area. It now houses The Manokan Country, a place that houses several restaurants selling chicken barbecue.  Actually, the city government wants to sell or lease it to the highest bidder.  Perhaps, LGU (local government unit) like Bacolod should be reminded that the land is not growing.  For me, the best option here is a Lease Agreement not a sale.  With the Lease Agreement, the LGU can still generate revenue from taxes but selling the land means that the city will lose it forever.  I hope, the city government must revisit its Land Resource Management Plan or its Comprehensive Land Use Plan to check if selling the land fits its CLUP.  But, I still vouch for Lease Agreement.

Furthermore, some prime lots located in the CBD of Bacolod City which is owned by the Provincial Government of Negros Occidental were recently occupied by 888 Mall, Puregold Supermart and Mall, the Ayala Land Development, SEDA Hotel, and a few others.

This writer had no access at this time to double check with the Provincial Government of Negros Occidental if these pieces of real estate were sold to the developers or were leased for a certain period of years.

Most property owners in Cebu, for example, the Ouanos, leased their lot to Gaisano Country Mall in Mandaue for a certain period of years but they never sold the lot to Gaisano Country Mall.  This writer’s fear is when the Provincial Government of Negros Occidental sold those pieces of land to the developers.  If that will be the case, the people of Negros Occidental say goodbye, forever, to those prime lots.  This writer wishes it is the other way around – that is, Lease Contract only.  (Earthniversity will exhaust all efforts to get the facts about this situation in the Province of Negros Occidental and will update this blog soon.)

If you wish to add some of your ideas, please feel free to include them.  This article is part of the Earthniversity’s Lecture Series online for our friends, followers, and readers.


  1. Asian Drama by Gunnar Myrdal, Vol. I, II, III.
  2. The government of Australia, Department of Environment Website
  3. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia

All photos by Henry C. Libo-on

Updated on December 22, 2018.