The Philippine government should address obstacles to attaining food self-sufficiency such as land conversion and land deals, according to research group IBON.
As the United Nations highlighted the need for food security in the recent World Food Day, the group said that in 20 years, there will be more converted lands for land non-agricultural ventures than rice lands if land conversion is not averted. From 2006-2010, according to the National Irrigation Administration, 165,000 hectares of irrigated rice lands have been converted yearly for other uses.
Meanwhile, the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC) reports some 74,930 hectares of farmlands converted to other uses from 1972 to June 2011, though ground data reveal higher figures.
For instance there are some 353,499 hectares locked in land dispute cases in Southern Tagalog affecting up to around 1.8 million farmers and farm workers, as well as 41,384.65 hectares being allocated to mining. In Central Luzon, agricultural lands are either targeted for conversion or are in various stages of conversion. An example is the estimated 58,000-hectares covered by Lopez-owned Energy Development Corp. and California Energy in Nueva Ecija. Department of Agriculture Rice Program National Coordinator Dante de Lima himself said that crucial to the success of attaining rice self-sufficiency for the country is the moratorium of land use conversions especially on rice lands.
The country’s food supply is also threatened by the allocation of supposedly idle agricultural lands to agribusiness land deals. Included in the “land bank” of the Philippine Agribusiness Development Cooperation Center (PADCC) are some 6 million hectares allocated for the production of cash crops and two million hectares for agribusiness development. In Clark, Pampanga, a South Korean bio-ethanol plant will be constructed and will be using about 30,000 hectares of farmlands for sugarcane production. In San Mariano, Isabela, a Japanese firm plans to use 11,000 hectares of land for bio-ethanol production.
The threat of more foreign land deals aggravating food self-sufficiency is intensified by renewed initiatives pushing for changes in the economic provisions of the Philippine Constitution to allow full foreign ownership of the country’s land resources, IBON added.
The promises of increasing productivity, mechanizing agriculture and managing consumption highlight the Aquino government’s food staples self-sufficiency roadmap for 2011-2016. These however will prove empty as long domestic food production is hampered by the conversion of farmlands into non-food business zones while farmers further lose their land to domestic and foreign land deals. (end)