Valencia barangay officials want ban on plantation expansions, too

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/11 July) – The Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) of neighboring Valencia City has passed a resolution urging the city council to immediately prohibit expansion of banana and pineapple plantations.

Valencia 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 before the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (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 proposed resolution, pushed by Dr. Almer Alfonso, chair of the committee on environment, health and sanitation, is set for its first committee hearing today.

City Councilor Glenn Peduche, chair of the committee on agriculture, said the expansion has already taken its toll on the city’s food security.

Valencia’s proposed resolution came after the Sangguniang Panlungsod of 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.

In February last year, Valencia’s Sangguniang Panlungsod passed a resolution to suspend issuing endorsements of new agricultural plantations pending the completion of its Comprehensive Land Use Plan or CLUP.

Huervas said then that the suspension is indefinite as they are not yet sure when they would be able to finish deliberations on the land use plan.

She said the suspension will apply to all agricultural firms who are planning to open new plantations in the city.

Endorsements from the city council are required for the issuance of business permits to plantations.

Huervas, speaking at the Valencia Water Congress on Feb. 18 organized by the Valencia City Water District, said it is very important to base their decisions concerning plantations on the city’s actual zoning classifications.

She, however, admitted that that the decision was triggered by the application of a fruit company for a plantation in upland Guinoyuran village.

She said the proposed plantation sits on an area with an elevation higher than nearby Lake Apo. The lake and its environs are a watershed area.

“This might affect our source of water,” Huervas added. She quoted Peduche as saying the city council is strong in its position not to endorse plantations without the CLUP as reference.

But she said they were not keen on allowing any plantation near Lake Apo. “We do not object [to investors in agriculture] but we will safeguard the health of the people,” she explained.

Huervas said they also feared a repeat of flash floods in Lurugan and San Carlos villages due to the presence of plantations in those areas. She said the city, however, still welcomes plantations for rubber, coffee, cacao, palm oil and other trees. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)