Yes to intercropping, no to oil palm, says Davao councilor

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/19 September) — A member of the City Council has proposed implementing intercropping projects such as cacao and banana instead of massive oil palm ventures in Paquibato and Marilog districts.

Councilor Marissa Salvador Abella, chair of the committee on agriculture told reporters Tuesday she was wary of oil palm as a crop since it would not promote sustainable agriculture.

However, Abella said the decision on which project to support rests on the city council.

She said there should be a parallel development of the other crops so in the city’s hinterlands instead of devoting these huge a single crop.

She cited that there studies saying oil palm could affect the city’s watersheds.

Last June, Vice Mayor Paolo Z. Duterte said the oil palm project could help address insurgency and poverty in some areas of Paquibato district.

“For so many years, the local government has been trying to solve the problem of insurgency and poverty in some areas of Paquibato district. I support the suggestion of the Mayor (Rodrigo Duterte) to put up a Palm Oil Plantation because I think this brings about a win-win solution to the problem,” Duterte said in a statement.

The younger Duterte quipped at Jean Lindo, co-chair of Panalipdan Southern Mindanao, for “not saying anything” when the local government was looking for solutions in the area.

“This is the problem now, when the government was thinking of solutions for Paquibato they were silent. Now that there’s a possible remedy, they’re suddenly speaking up and a lot of bright minds have emerged,” the vice mayor said then.

Duterte said aside from the farming opportunities for the residents of Paquibato, the project would also lead to more benefits such as social security as well as the creation of a profit-sharing scheme to ensure that the farmers and owners get their fair share of the profits generated by their land.

Mayor Duterte said earlier this year that Malaysian and Thai companies are eyeing tracts of land in both Paquibato and Marilog districts as plantations for the crop.

“(We) urge the Local Government of Davao City to look also at the perils of foreign corporate-controlled palm oil plantations based on people’s experiences and not only the companies’ mere promises of economic development,” Panalipdan said in a statement.

The environment group said establishing oil palm plantations in the area threatens the status of Paquibato as an important water resource area.

The New People’s Army is also active in the area.

According to the city’s Comprehensive Land Use Program (CLUP), Marilog district covers 11,102 hectares of forest cover, with at least 45,000 hectares classified as brush and agricultural lands.

The area serves as a major production area of the city because of its agroforestry products, the CLUP said.

Paquibato, meanwhile, has at least 110,000 hectares classified as brush and grass lands, with forest cover occupying 10,492 hectares.

Around 1,700 hectares has been classified as agricultural land.

Both districts are occupied mostly by indigenous peoples, the Ata, Manobo, and Matigsalug.

Paquibato and Marilog are also classified as potential geo-hazard risks due to its steep slopes, according to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.

According to the document, the city’s policy includes the promotion of priority permanent crops such as durian, cacao, coffee, banana, coconut and rubber.

In February, City Agriculturist Roselio Tabay said the city was eyeing the expansion of the city’s cacao areas from 2,800 hectares to 10,000 hectares.

The official said they were banking on the joint initiative Departments of Environment and Natural Resources and Agrarian Reform, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples and the Philippine Coconut Authority to implement the farming projects.

Tabay said cacao was a rising industry due to the low supply of the crop in West Africa. (MindaNews)