MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/03 July) – The city council on Monday refused an appeal from fruit companies to lift the local moratorium on the expansion of agricultural plantations.
City councilor Canuto Barroso, chair of the committees on agriculture and environmental protection, told MindaNews via telephone Monday the resolution will stay for a long time to ensure the protection of the environment and agriculture.
Sitting as a committee of the whole, the council heard officials from Del Monte Philippines Inc. explain their side on the complaint of about 50 landowners that the company has refused to pay them rent because of the moratorium.
Barroso said the DMPI officials denied the nonpayment saying they only needed clarification on the 166 hectares already contracted before April 10, 2012, the day the moratorium took effect.
He added that the city council’s resolution is not retroactive so all lease contracts signed before the moratorium are not covered. But he stressed that no new contracts should be signed.
Barroso said DMPI has to comply with the recommendations of the provincial multi-partite monitoring team after it inspected the firm’s area in Imbayao, which has been blamed for floods in parts of the city’s lower portions.
He said the team’s findings cited lack of silt trap, absence of catch basin, and planting in areas with a slope beyond 12 percent. It recommended contour measures and planting of trees along embankments, among others.
The city council passed the moratorium ordinance on April 10 in response to complaints from barangay councils against the fast conversion of farms into plantations and its effects on the environment and agriculture.
It noted the expansion of plantations in barangays Bangcud, Cabangahan, Casisang, Imbayao, Laguitas, Magsaysay, Mapayag and San Jose.
Barroso said the fruit companies would deal directly with the land owners without bothering to obtain the prior consent of the barangay councils and the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro).
Barroso said DMPI appealed for the lifting of the ordinance when it appeared before the city council on May 29. Two other agribusiness firms appeared on June 5.
DMPI said it has addressed the matters raised by the ABC which prompted the moratorium.
Francis Rivera, DMPI’s environmental and safety manager told the city council on May 29 that they have established longline block ditches, check dams, catchment basins, maintenance of easement creeks, steward program, carbon accounting system, baseline water analysis and other programs through the Del Monte Foundation.
Barroso, however, said: “They have yet to convince us also about their flood control and damage control systems.”
Councilor Roland Deticio, who was among those who filed the resolution, said the city government must conduct further study before altering the moratorium.
He cited the need to create a technical working group to conduct an impact assessment of the plantations on the environment and agriculture.
Barroso said there is also a plan to create a local body similar to the provincial multi-partite monitoring team whose task is to monitor the compliance of the agricultural firms with their environmental compliance certificates.
He said the resolution came after the committee hearings on the impact of the expansion on the environment and agriculture.
He noted that barangays Mapayag and Imbayao in particular have complained about the expansion.
Barroso said the fruit companies allegedly employed land development practices that tend to damage the environment, such as flattening of slopes to maximize plantation areas.
He added the Cenro has received complaints that the fruit companies allegedly practice a form of cloud dispersal that drives away rain from a certain area affecting local farmers. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)