‘Idle’ lands for food security
The Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes (PNFSP) strongly opposes Environment Secretary Ramon Paje’s proposal to convert 8 million hectares of allegedly “idle, denuded and unproductive lands across the country into oil palm plantations” (Across the Nation, 5/26/14).
PNFSP’s regional member in Central Visayas, the Farmers Development Center, has a study on the effects of growing oil palm, specifically on farmers in Bohol. The study revealed that the farmers were enticed to enter into subcontracting due to promises of big profits, but their certificate of land ownership awards (Cloas) were used as collateral to purchase inputs. After three years of planting oil palm, the harvested fruits were bought at lower than the market price. As a result, on the average a P40,000-deficit was incurred by farmers. The most unfortunate result of this venture was the confiscation of Cloas that were used as collateral, and the farmers lost their valuable land.
This example is just one among many other cases of unfair and unequal agreements concerning oil palm plantations that farmers have been “deceived” to engage in. They do not stand to gain any significant revenues; instead they fall into indebtedness and lose their land.
Moreover, the country would benefit much more if the supposed “idle, denuded and unproductive lands” are to be planted with rice, corn, vegetables and other crops. For example, 8 million hectares of land planted with rice, and averaging a yield of 60 cavans per hectare (3.5 metric tons), would yield a total of 480 million cavans or 28 million metric tons of rice in one cropping. Surely, this would greatly ensure the country’s rice self-sufficiency.
If the Aquino administration is truly sincere in its Food Staples Sufficiency Program, its officials should advocate rice production and not the production of cash crops that exploit the farmers and plantation workers and, at worst, aggravate the country’s food insecurity.
—ESTRELLA F. CATARATA,
Philippine Network of
Food Security Programmes,
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