Valencia imposes moratorium on expansion of fruit plantations

VALENCIA CITY (MindaNews/18 July) – The Sangguniang Panlungsod passed on Monday a resolution imposing a moratorium on expansion of fruit plantations here pending a review of policies affecting the local environment and agriculture.

City Councilor Glenn Peduche, chair of the committee on agriculture, said in a telephone interview they will hold a series of hearings to review the concerned firms’ compliance of the Environmental Compliance Certificates issued by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

He added that they will also facilitate the conduct of a multi-sector study to assess what the local government can do to improve protection of the city’s environment.

But Peduche said they never meant to drive away plantation companies.

“We will schedule a dialogue with the affected companies to explain to them what we are doing. We also wanted to assess up to how big they could use for plantations,” he added.

Peduche, who has chaired Bukidnon’s multi-partite monitoring team (MMT) when he served as provincial board member from 2001 to 2010, said that after the comprehensive review, they will decide whether to lift the moratorium or draft an ordinance to make it permanent or another ordinance that encompasses the recommendations of the review.

Representatives from different sectors – including barangay captains from flood prone barangays such as Bagonta-as, Sugod, and Tugaya – appeared at the regular session of the city council Monday to express their position on the issue.

The Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) has passed a resolution urging the city council to immediately prohibit expansion of banana and pineapple plantations.

Vice Mayor Azucena Huervas said over telephone the ABC, which met and passed the resolution on June 21 and transmitted it to the city council on June 29, cited among other reasons the need to maintain healthy and balanced communities and the need for the city government and other authorities to evaluate the possible environmental impact of expansion.

The ABC cited that proponents of plantations needed an endorsement from the barangay and the city council to proceed, aside from obtaining an environmental compliance certificate from the DENR.

She added that successive flashfloods that hit Valencia during heavy rains, among other reasons, have triggered the city council since last week to draft its resolution on declaring a moratorium.

The resolution was pushed by Dr. Almer Alfonso, chair of the committee on environment, health and sanitation, which held its first committee hearing Wednesday last week.

Peduche said last week the expansion has already taken its toll on the city’s food security.

In February last year, the city council passed a resolution to suspend issuing endorsements of new agricultural plantations pending the completion of its Comprehensive Land Use Plan or CLUP.

Valencia’s moratorium resolution came after the Sangguniang Panlungsod of neighboring Malaybalay City unanimously approved last April 10 the urgent resolution to impose a moratorium on expansion of fruit plantations in the city.

The same resolution was passed in response to a resolution earlier passed by Malaybalay’s Association of Barangay Councils (ABC). Fruit companies questioned the moratorium but the city council said the resolution stays for a long time. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)