Malaybalay LGU urged to give teeth to moratorium on plantations

MALAYBALAY CITY(MindaNews/ 18 August) – Businesswoman Severina Velos has appealed to the city government to give teeth to its resolution imposing a moratorium on the expansion of agricultural plantations in the city.

She expressed fears that at least 144 hectares more will be converted to pineapple plantations in the area, which were supposedly contracted before the moratorium was passed, although not yet planted.

“I hope no more areas will be added, even areas already contracted,” she said.

Velos, whose family owns a poultry and a realty developing firm, among others, urged the city government to go around and check the situation in the affected areas.

“There are more than enough areas already cultivated for the plantations,” said Velos, who heads the city’s poultry industry.

She said that if only the city government had created a multi-partite monitoring team, it would be easier to check what’s going on.  The MMT shall see to it that companies comply with the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) issued to them.

Velos told MindaNews she has made it a personal mission to come out and speak about the danger of further cultivation in the upper portion of the city, especially after the flooding that struck their farm in Sta. Ana, Kinoguitan, Casisang.

On July 21, the staff of Velos was able to document the flood in their poultry farm, the first time to hit hard in at least a decade of its operation.

“If it that’s how heavy the flood up here, what more in the lower part of the city?” she asked.

Appearing before the city council last August 7, she reported that since Del Monte Philippines, Inc. opened its plantation in the area, flooding has worsened.

Marco Parpan, Del Monte legal counsel, said in the August 14 city council session that the company has complied with its ECC.

Councilor Roland Deticio raised a question on the allegations that Del Monte proceeded with expansion even after the moratorium was passed.

Parpan said they respected the resolution and transferred their land canvassers to others areas.

Deticio also cited that Del Monte appeared to have created a pressure group composing of landowners, who sought an action from the city council after it passed the moratorium. The landowners reportedly asked some city councilors to reconsider the moratorium because Del Monte won’t pay them yet for the lease of their lands.

Apologizing, Parpan said the issue is moot and academic, as the landowners have already been paid.

He added that Del Monte only want to sought clarification from the city council if the contracts signed before the resolution was passed will be affected.

Velos said her coming out is not intended only for Del Monte, which runs a plantation next to their poultry farm.

“This is true for all. I am not blaming any particular company. They are all contributory to the problem,” she said, warning that if the LGU cannot control the conversion of farms in the area, the city will be flooded.

Velos said that businesses, besides making profit, have responsibilities to protect the environment. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)