Bukidnon gives premium to food security in proposed new land use plan

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/03 October) — Dolores Dio, 74, is among the few women whose main livelihood is farming in Barangay Sinanglanan, one of Malaybalay’s 46 barangays.

Since her husband died of illness 35 years ago, she took over their corn farm in Sitio Malapgap to earn a living for their six children.

Five years ago, she retired from corn farming and partitioned their land in the hilly portion of the village to her children. But the widow has continued to plant vegetables like string beans and earns about P1,000 a week selling it.

“This is how I survive. I got used to it. As long as I have the strength, I will work in the farm,” she said after selling her goods at the public market.

Dio said she never heard about the public hearing done in the city on September 26 for the proposed revision of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) for 2012 to 2022.

She was, however, delighted to learn that her village was placed under Cluster 2 or the Agricultural Protection cluster with 11 other barangays in the city’s Basakan area.

In this cluster, city planners eyed to use strategies like increased agricultural crop production and productivity in support to food sufficiency and security and the provision of irrigation and post-harvest facilities, among others.

Dio said never in her life had any government representative asked her about how she felt about their plans.

“I don’t’ really mind. I would go on with my work, anyway. What’s important is I can provide food for my family and have a portion of it sold in the market,” she added.

Land for food security

According to city planners, of the city’s total land area of 108, 259 hectares, only 2,797 hectares in 2001 and 2,996 hectares in 2012–or an increase of seven percent—were identified under the Network of Protected Areas for Agricultural and Agro-industrial Development (NPAAD) or agricultural protected areas for food production.

In contrast, 2,350 hectares in 2000 and 9,052 hectares in 2012 were actually used for agri-industrial plantations for pineapple, rubber, banana and sugarcane. In those 12 years, land conversion rate rose by 285 percent.

Although not “expressed directly,” food security is among the key parameters used in the review of a town or city’s CLUP, said Jesrel Mangubat, officer-in-charge of the Provincial Planning and Development Office (PPDO).

He said the ordinary people’s stake in land use planning is crucial, especially in terms of securing food production for the population to eat in the next 10 years.

Among the issues raised during the public hearing for the proposed revision of Malaybalay’s CLUP was if the production of staple food crops from the city’s agriculture lands is sufficient to supply the city’s needs in the next 10 years.

CLUP as tool for compatibility

For years, Mangubat had been tasked to lead the secretariat of the Provincial Land Use Committee (PLUC), which is a committee helping the provincial board committee on zoning and human settlement review the CLUPs of the province’s 20 towns and two cities.

He said the CLUP is an allotment of land resources – how large and which parts will be allotted for what use – in the future.

Mangubat noted that people should be concerned about the CLUP because it is not only about dividing the city into zones for such sake.

“Food (security) is a major consideration in the CLUP. Everybody is concerned about this,” he said, adding that the CLUP is also used as basis for a zoning ordinance and as guide for government regulators and private landowners.

The CLUP and the zoning ordinance, for example, will protect people in residential areas away from incompatible activities like piggeries and poultry farms, Mangubat explained.

He also stressed that CLUP is a tool to check compatibility of uses.

There are residential areas where commercial and institutional establishments maybe allowed, but not heavy industries, Mangubat said.

Different tasks

Mangubat said the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB), the lead government agency in terms of land use planning, has set various parameters to review land use plans.

The PPDO, for instance, is tasked to check if the CLUP conforms with or is in harmony with the development thrust of the province.

The Provincial Agriculture Office, another member of the 11-member PLUC, should check if irrigated and irrigable lands are delineated in the CLUP and if development expansion areas are within the NPAAD-identified area “to ensure the efficient use of land for agriculture and agro-industrial development and promote sustainable growth.”

Aside from NPAAD, the CLUP should also reflect the Strategic Agri-Fisheries Development Zone.

For the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, it is tasked to check if present and proposed development areas are free from legal and environmental constraints and if there are inconsistencies between development and protected areas.

Another core environmental concern is the viability of proposed waste disposal sites and waste management in general.

Of the city’s total land area of 108, 259 hectares, around 17 percent or 17,815 hectares are primary forest areas and around 15 percent or 15,453 hectares are secondary forests, PPDO data showed.

In the preparation of the CLUP, Mangubat said local planners must also factor in agrarian reform considerations, such as lands subject for reclassification from agriculture to other uses, among others.

A dozen other parameters from the Department of Trade and Industry, the provincial engineers’ office, the Department of Tourism and the Department of the Interior and Local Government are used in the review.

But for farmers like Dolores Dio in Barangay Sinanglanan, for as long as the government keeps the irrigation operational and “the fertilizers cheap,” they will continue farming in their village.

“Whatever CLUP means, as long as the government keeps rice and corn lands for rice and corn only, I will be okay with that,” she added.

She said the government should not allow pineapple and banana plantations into these areas “unless if these crops could be eaten for breakfast.”

“The people here are satisfied in farming rice and corn,” she said.

But Dio expressed worry about the changing climate or environmental condition, which she conceded is beyond her control. When typhoon Pablo struck the village last December, nothing was left of her farm.

“No amount of farmer’s effort can stop that. I hope they considered that, too, [in the CLUP],” she said. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)