Written by Fernan Marasigan / Reporter
A MILITANT legislator has expressed alarm over what he described as escalating land-lease agreements by the Philippines with other countries which, he said, will only worsen landlessness.
This developed even as food-security activists expressed outrage over the news that the government has leased, yet again, 94,000 hectares of agricultural land in Mindoro to a Korean corporation, Jeonnam Feedstock Ltd., to grow corn feed for 25 years.
“The rising number of land-lease arrangements the country entered into with foreign agribusiness corporations involving hundreds of thousands of hectares of farmlands will surely worsen landlessness,” said Party-list Rep. Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis.
Quoting Lim Young-muk, an official of South Jeolla province, Mariano said Jeonnam Feedstock Ltd. has leased about 94,000 hectares of farmland in Mindoro to grow low-cost grain for feed production.
“The increasing trend of global corporate land-grabbing in the country is a direct affront to our national patrimony and undermines the Filipino farmers’ struggle for genuine land reform,” Mariano said.
The sentiment was echoed by a food-security group headed by Arze Glipo, lead convenor of Task Force Food Sovereignty (TFFS).
“Is the government bidding out the entire country?” Glipo said.
The TFFS statement came after news last month that the government awarded 400,000 hectares in Ilocos to a Japanese corporation to grow coconut for biofuel.
Glipo said the present government seems to consider only the very narrow and most immediate gain from such transactions and completely disregards both the short- and long-term development goals of the country.
“Why should we prioritize the production of corn to feed animals in Korea when we cannot even feed all the Filipino people?” Glipo said.
TFFS said the government is putting the country in a very precarious situation, endangering the production of food for domestic use as well as raw materials for local industries.
TFFS called for an immediate stop to all future land leases and a suspension of all existing leases to foreign corporations.
“Otherwise, the country will end up importing more food in the future,” Glipo stressed.
Mariano added that “it is the height of stupidity for our country to bargain our lands for the sake of other nation’s food security while being dependent on importation for our very own food-security needs.”
Mariano also cited a joint venture of Philippine BioEnergy Northern Luzon Inc. and its Japanese partner, Pacific Bio-fields Corp., that would allow Japan to use at least 600,000 hectares of land in the country for biofuel production in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte.
Mariano blamed Republic Act (RA) 7652 or the Foreign Investors Lease Act, authored by then-senator Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, as one of the main culprits in the rising number of land deals with foreign countries.
“RA 7652, authored by President Arroyo herself, provided foreigners to lease farmlands for 50 years and renewable for another 25 years. This law strengthened foreign monopoly and control of our farmlands, virtually a lifetime ownership,” he said.
“This demonstrates why every time Ms. Arroyo goes on so-called working visits abroad, she has nothing to offer but our farmlands,” Mariano said, noting that “since 2004, the promotion of agribusiness production for export was already embodied in Ms. Arroyo’s 10-point agenda,” Mariano added.
The congressman called on the committees on agrarian reform and agriculture and food to jointly conduct a probe on the reported land deals.“It’s high time to revisit laws resorting to unbridled foreign plunder of our natural resources,” he said. (With Jonathan Mayuga)