Bukidnon losing rice, corn lands to cash crops plantations

Engr. Alson Quimba, Bukidnon provincial agriculture officer-in-charge, said the province “is still a staple food basket in Mindanao but if left unchecked, the fast expansion could affect food security”.

"The increase is below rapid rate but faster than gradual," Quimba told MindaNews, saying that this was how fast the change in the conversion of the farms from the staple to cash crops. He said though that he could not provide the data yet as his office was still collating updated statistics.

Bukidnon grows corn, sugarcane, rice, vegetables and banana and pineapples.

He estimated, however, the minimum annual conversion to be at least 50 hectares a year.

He said this was “a very conservative figure considering the conversion is visible in the changing landscape”.

Quimba said banana and pineapple producers have eyed high-yielding areas of rice, corn and vegetable in their expansion programs due to existing good irrigation.

He cited the lack of leverage among local governments as another problem, especially in the issue of environmental regulation.

"LGUs have no hold. When the firms apply for business permit, they already have an ECC from DENR," he said.  The Department of Environment and Natural Resources' Environmental Management Bureau issues the Environment Compliance Certificate.

The provincial government is currently looking at the possibility of passing an ordinance to require firms to obtain a license to operate from the provincial governor to ensure the local government has the leverage.

Glenn Peduche, provincial board member and chair of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan's environment and natural resources committee, said they are holding a committee hearing on the proposal on May 19.

Besides, Quimba said, “since 2002, the Provincial Development Council has already laid a way to balance between staple and industrial food production”.

He said they have already espoused to the 20 towns and two cities the use of the Provincial Crop Zonification Framework Plan.

He said it was a guide to convince LGUs to enforce their local crop zoning plan or in case of none, formulate their own to ensure food security. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)