Land conversions threaten food security in Bukidnon

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/17 June) – Bukidnon’s provincial development and physical framework plan up to 2013 considers the conversion of prime agricultural lands into industrial plantations, along with nine others as a core development issue and problem in the province.

The issue was classified under “food security and sufficiency concerns” in Bukidnon where expansions of banana and pineapple plantations have continued even with the passage of local legislation.

The five-year plan, developed by the Provincial Development Council with the facilitation of the Provincial Planning and Development Office, became the basis for the provincial development plan and the annual investment plans from 2008 to 2013.

Salvacion Dedicatoria, PPDO chief, presented the plan to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan on Wednesday in relation to the board’s approval of the Bukidnon provincial physical framework plan.

Dedicatoria told MindaNews that although it is still a plan, it is an important sketch of policy directions from which actual public investments will be based.

Aside from the conversions of rice and corn farms into industrial plantations, the newly-approved plan cited low family income, inadequate infrastructure support facilities and investments, inadequate credit support services, environmental degradation, inadequate educational facilities and human resources, health related concerns, inadequate housing facilities, and “limited personnel or workforce and facilities for the maintenance of peace and security”.

Dedicatoria said in response to the issue, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan passed an ordinance banning expansion of the leasehold for agricultural plantations.

But the administration of Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. reportedly did not implement the ban. Zubiri, governor from 2001, will be serving as vice governor effective June 30.

Under the “environmental degradation” problem, the PDC cited the encroachment on forestlands for agricultural production and the indiscriminate or excessive use of toxic chemicals in commercial and industrial plantations.

Under inadequate infrastructure facilities and investments, the PDC cited “inadequate maintenance fund for farm to market roads,” “inadequate post harvest facilities,” “inadequate irrigation system and poor maintenance of irrigation facilities.”

Incidentally, provincial board members could not remember approving the five-year development plan itself from which the physical framework plan should have been derived.

Board members recognized the delay in the completion of the plan after Dedicatoria explained that certain requirements from the national government hampered them from completing the five-year development plan on time.

Dedicatoria said they were ready to present a draft in 2008; they were just blocked by a memorandum from the National Economic Development Authority due to a manual to standardize development plans.

It was board member Oliver Owen Garcia who pointed out the delay in the formulation of the plan, stressing it should be called “a three-year” plan.

He also questioned the kind of development parameters the province used in the budgets for 2008 to 2010 when the 2008 to 2013 development plan was not yet completed and approved.

Dedicatoria said they followed an earlier “carry over plan” that covered 2003 to 2011.

Board member Clive Quiño, however, questioned the accuracy of the data used in the planning. He said the province has not complied with the community-based monitoring system, which required planning and monitoring from the village level, up.

“That should have been an even more urgent step,” he said. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)