Save farming and farmers, stop converting farm lands: Kiko

August 25, 2019

Save farming and farmers, stop converting farm lands: Kiko

100,000 hectares of agricultural lands not producing food since 1988

MANILA — To ensure that Filipino farmers are able to produce food for the country, Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan seeks to stop the unbridled conversion of agricultural land into residential, commercial, industrial, and other non-agricultural uses.

Since agrarian reform was implemented in 1988 up to 2016, almost 100,000 hectares of agricultural land (97,592.5 hectares) — or the combined size of Metro Manila and Cebu City — have not produced food, said Pangilinan in the explanatory note of his Senate Bill 256, or the Agricultural Land Conversion Ban Act.

Kailangan natin ang mga magsasaka para kumain ang bayan. Kailangan ng mga magsasaka na may lupang sinasaka para pakainin ang bayan (We need farmers to feed the country. Farmers need farm lands to feed the country),” he said.

Pangilinan said rapid urbanization and population growth have contributed to the problem of shrinking agricultural lands.

Pinapanukala nating protektahan ang mga lupang sakahan na ginastusan na ng gobyerno sa patubig (This measure aims to protect farm lands for which government already spent to irrigate),” he said, noting that his proposed bill seeks to preserve irrigated and irrigable lands for the country’s food security.

Data shows that Luzon suffers most from massive land conversion, making up 80.6% of the entire country’s approved land conversions; Visayas, 7.8%; and Mindanao, 11.6%.

Kritikal ito para matiyak ang food security ng ating bansa. Madalas, prime agricultural lands pa ang pinupuntiryang i-convert,” he added.

The bill amends Section 20 of the Local Government Code, requiring additional approval from the Departments of Agriculture, Agrarian Reform, and Environment and Natural Resources, as well as local government units before land reclassification and conversion.

Itong karagdagang requirement bago makakuha ng conversion permit ay para matiyak kung nararapat nga ang conversion ng isang lupang pang-agrikultura. Napapanahon ang paghihigpit na ito dulot na rin ng labis na land conversion, ligal man o iligal (This additional requirement before the grant of a conversion permit is to ensure the suitability of the conversion of an agriculture lot. This is timely due to the unbridled land conversion, legal or otherwise),” said the senator, who owns a small vegetable farm in Cavite.

Under the bill, conversion of agricultural lands requires the following certifications:

– From the Department of Agriculture indicating

the total area of existing agricultural land,

that such lands are not included among those classified for conversion or reclassification under an existing law (AO 20, series of 1992), and

that the land has ceased to be economically feasible for agricultural purposes;

– From the Department of Agrarian Reform indicating that such lands are not distributed or programmed for distribution to agrarian reform beneficiaries;

– From the Department of Environment and Natural Resources indicating that the proposed reclassification is ecologically sound.

Studies show that agriculture takes a back seat among other land development projects as it has the smallest return on investment.

“Ang ibig sabihin nito, kailangan nating punan ang pagsasaka para maging kaakit-akit na pagkakakitaan, dahil kailangan nating lahat ng pagkain para mabuhay (This means that we need to make farming an attractive enterprise, because we all need food to live),” Pangilinan said.

The Agricultural Land Conversion Ban of 2019 is one of Pangilinan’s pro-farmer legislations.

For the 18th Congress, he has filed 13 other agriculture- and environment-related bills. They are: Senate Bills 31 on Coco Levy Trust Fund, 32 on creation of the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, 33 on Post-Harvest Facilities, 34 on Organic Agriculture, 35 on Expanded Crop Insurance, 36 on Rainwater Management, 38 on National Land Use, 40 on Single-use Plastic Regulation, 257 on Urban Agriculture, 263 on Solid Waste Importation Ban, 423 on Food Waste Reduction, 638 on Electric and Hybrid Vehicles Incentives, and 639 on National Mangrove Forest Protection and Preservation.

Pangilinan believes that agriculture is the key to Philippine progress. He authored the recently signed Sagip Saka Act of 2019 which links farmers directly to buyers like government offices, to address the exploitative and unjust relationship between farmers and middlemen and effectively raise farmers’ incomes via entrepreneurial programs.

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