MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/17 April) – The Malaybalay city council has passed a resolution imposing a moratorium on the expansion of agricultural plantations citing environmental and agricultural concerns.
City Councilor Anthony Canuto Barroso, chair of the committees on agriculture and environmental protection, told MindaNews via telephone Monday the resolution was in response to complaints from barangay councils against the fast conversion of farms into plantations and its effects on the environment and agricultural practices.
The resolution was unanimously approved last week after City Councilor Medardo Estaniel, president of the Association of Barangay Councils (ABC), gave a privileged speech that echoed the questions raised by the ABC on the unregulated expansion of pineapple and banana plantations.
The city council 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.
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 employed land development practices that tend to damage the environment, such as flattening of slopes to maximize plantation areas.
He added that the City ENRO 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.
“They have yet to convince us also about their flood control and damage control systems,” Barroso said, adding the City ENRO is yet to form a technical working group to study the actual impact.
City Councilor Roland Deticio, who filed a similar resolution, argued that the resolution must be imposed already while the study is being conducted to stop the fast rate of expansion that endangers the city’s flood control system and food security.
Barroso clarified that they are open to dialogue with the fruit companies. He cited a fruit company which has scheduled an audience with the city council.
“We will hear their position. They have to convince us about what their protection systems are (for the environment and agriculture),” he added.
He noted that they may lift the moratorium if they obtain the prior informed consent of the barangays, and “if they convince us about their mechanisms.”
“But if they can’t, the moratorium will stay for a long time,” he said. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)