The head of the National Economic and Development Authority called for a drastic reform of the Commission on Audit to clear road blocks in investments in the agriculture sector.
Economic Planning Secretary and Neda director-general Ernesto Pernia said during the general membership meeting of the Chamber of Thrift Banks that CoA had been one of the hindrances in attracting potential investors to the agriculture sector.
He said the government must improve securing property titles in the country to make lands productive.
“That means we need to improve our titling of lands. A lot of lands in agriculture are not really titled, so they cannot be used as collateral or cannot be sold or leased, so that some big businessmen can buy small pieces of land… and make it more economically viable,” Pernia said.
“So that is a constraint and that has to be addressed by better land administration,” he added.
Pernia noted that one of the 10-point economic agenda of the Duterte administration stressed the improvement of land administration.
He said farmers should be allowed to sell lands awarded to them and be given the title to make the property transactionable.
“Also, the other problem is that CoA has been warning potential investors or builders not to build on or buy untitled property. So at the Cabinet meeting, we discussed this issue, and the President said we will call the CoA chairman and tell him you better do something about this roadblock, (to allow) investment in agriculture (to flourish),” Pernia said.
“In fact, Vice President Leni Robredo was also… complaining that she could not build houses in many areas that they would like to build on for housing because they are untitled. They just have the tax declaration, but that is not enough for CoA. CoA has to be reformed drastically,” he added.
A report released by the Manila-based Asian Development Bank last year showed that about 46 percent of the country’s 24.2 million land parcels remained untitled as of 2007. In comparison, Vietnam had about 90 percent of land parcels registered.
About 70 percent, or 7.8 million, of untitled land parcels, are residential.
The ADB report, entitled Building Modern Land Administration Systems, said the big volume of untitled land weakened security of tenure, opened the system to abuse and hampered the efficient flow of commerce, as land could not be bought and sold without titles.
The limited supply of land and increase in population are also leading to conflicts in use and ownership because of blurred titling.
“There are no quick fixes to land tenure problems. Building a modern land administration system is a colossal endeavor because legislation, organizational structures, financial mechanisms and technical guidance are closely interconnected and subject to the vagaries of political processes,” the report stated.
“In the Philippines, excepting unlikely, favorable circumstances in both the House of Representatives and Senate, improvements can only be achieved in the long term (15 to 20 years),” the ADB said.