Ex-Agri Secretary Says Massive Land Use Conversion Hurts Food Status

Hits government’s ‘blind adherence’ to globalization

The massive land use conversion for non-agricultural purposes have certainly been one of the major factors for the dwindling rice supply, food insecurity and rising costs of basic commodities in recent years. This was the comment of the former agriculture secretary and Batanes solon Florencio “Butch” Abad in view of the recent reports of a rice shortage plaguing the country.

BY KARL G. OMBION
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 9, April 6-12, 2008

The massive land use conversion for non-agricultural purposes have certainly been one of the major factors for the dwindling rice supply, food insecurity and rising costs of basic commodities in recent years.

This was the comment of former agriculture secretary and Batanes solon Florencio “Butch” Abad in view of the recent reports of a rice shortage plaguing the country.

Abad who was in Bacolod over the weekend for a meeting with local members of the Liberal Party said that the massive and unabated conversion of agricultural lands including those covered by agrarian reform since early 1990s, have been hurting Philippine agriculture and our food security quite badly.

“Tens of thousands of rich lands critical to building our stable food base have been transformed into subdivisions, commercial centers, recreation camps, golf courses, export processing zones, mining explorations, and many other non-agricultural purposes,” Abad said.

This trend never ceased since the 1990s, and now engulfed practically major regions with rich agricultural lands; that is why the lands devoted for rice, corn and other basic food crops have dropped considerably beginning mid 90s.

Abad stressed that the root of this problem is the government’s blind adherence to globalization policies of “liberalization, deregulation and privatization” which from all indications have only destroyed our agriculture and further worsened our dependence on imports.

This has been aggravated by the government’s lack of a comprehensive land use policy, which result to anarchy among government agencies and local governments.

The Local Government Code, Abad lamented, even gives power to local government units to convert and reclassify lands for their own micro needs. “The problem with LGUs (local government units) is that they make plans without consideration to the overall national situation and needs of the country as a whole.”

It is even worse, Abad opined, in the case of Negros which is a monocrop sugar-based economy.

“Because of its small percentage of lands devoted to rice and food crops, the region is practically dependent on imported rice and other basic goods, thus making the Negrosanons hostage or vulnerable to fluctuation in the international market,” Abad said.

Abad also said that with the glut of rice in the world market, leading rice producing countries like China, Vietnam, Thailand, India, would likely exploit the world market and sell their rice to “the highest bidder.”

This is not something impossible, and if this hits the Philippines, we would be in for a bigger trouble, he added.

Abad also said that this policy has already done serious harm on our agriculture, and added saying “unless there is a fundamental shift in government’s agricultural policy the trend would likely be irreversible.” (Bulatlat.com)

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