However, Alson Quimba, officer in charge at the provincial agriculture office, could not provide figures yet on how fast rice and corn lands in the province are being converted into other uses.
Quimba said that as early as 2002, the PDC had approved measures to balance the production of staple and industrial crops.
He said they have urged the LGUs the use of the Provincial Crop Zonification Framework Plan.
He said it is meant to guide and convince LGUs to enforce their crop zoning plans or in the absence of one, formulate their own to ensure food security at the local level.
"But up to now, the plan has probably remained a framework," he said.
The plan pushes for more specific classifications of "agricultural lands" aside from the broad industrial, agricultural, commercial and residential categorizations.
He said classification should go to the level of ensuring food security by determining and enacting which among those considered as "agricultural lands" are for production of "staple food" or "industrial food".
"In that way we reach our (staple) food sufficiency level first before more lands are allowed to be used by industrial plantations,” he explained.
He said the province as a whole is still a food basket. But he cited that the bigger part of Lantapan and Sumilao towns for example are already planted to industrial crops.
"If you look closer, the towns are no longer food baskets because of the trend of conversions," he said.
He said the government finds nothing wrong with banana and pineapple plantations as they are also "economic drivers" along with staple food production.
But local governments must also not forget to mind their need for staple food, he stressed. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)