Agriculture sector loses 50K hectares due to illegal land conversions
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol had sought the President Rodrigo Duterte’s help to the decades old problem hounding the sector, which is illegal land conversions.
To date, the sector had lost 50,000 hectares because of this, Piñol said.
These areas include irrigated areas ,which were part of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) service area, developed at an estimated cost of P400,000 per hectare.
“Finding a loophole in the law which states that agricultural lands which are not utilized for farming for a period of three years could be converted for industrial and residential uses, investors buy prime farm lands and wait out for the 3-year reglamentary period before applying for conversion,” Piñol said.
“In many cases, housing and industrial companies do not even bother to wait for the end of the 3-year period. Using their connections with local government units, they just proceed with the conversion without getting clearances from the national government committee which handles land conversions,” he added.
Over the weekend, Piñol received two urgent requests for help from concerned citizens in two areas – Isabel and Dinagat Islands – who sent photos showing the conversion of irrigated areas into commercial and housing purposes.
The photos from Luna and Mercedes towns in Isabela showed big warehouses reportedly owned by foreigners which were constructed in irrigated areas.
Next week, Piñol said he will submit all of these photos to Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriciones so these complaints could be acted upon.
“I have also directed all Agriculture Regional Directors to document all conversions of agricultural lands for purposes other than farming in their areas,” Piñol further said.