Farmers’ group doubts benefits of oil palm plantation in Davao

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Davao Today | 19 June 2014
Mayor Rodrigo Duterte (with mic).

Farmers’ group doubts benefits of oil palm plantation in Davao

By TYRONE A. VELEZ

DAVAO CITY – The Farmers’ Association in Davao City (FADC) thinks the proposed oil palm operation in Paquibato and other rural areas in the city may not be the solution to combat poverty.

FADC spokesperson Pedro Arnado told Davao Today that Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s proposal to Paquibato farmers to embrace oil palm “may be enticing”, but warns that only businessmen may profit at the expense of farmers.

“To welcome these capitalists to Paquibato is not really what the farmers there want. Besides, who can invest and plant oil palm but the businessmen, and not the farmers,” he said.

Rather than invite businesses that leave farmers and consumers at a losing end, he said that both local and national government should look into more realistic needs of the farmers.

“What the farmers want are simple: farm-to-market roads, schools, fair prices for their farm products and protection of ancestral lands,” he said.

FADC, an affiliate of the progressive national group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Peasant’s Movement of the Philippines), has a chapter in Paquibato.

Paquibato is one of the rural districts 50 kilometers north of downtown Davao with a population of 38,000, and has been known to be a bailiwick of the New People’s Army.

Last June 12, the Armed Forces’  Eastern Mindanao Command held a program in Paquibato and declared the district “peace and development ready” after a year of implementing its outreach program.

Duterte was also present and offered to both Paquibato farmers and the guerrillas in the area to join in a venture with a Malaysian company to plant 100 hectares of oil palm. Another official, Rogelio Tabay from the City Agriculture Office said the demands from this investor which he did not name would not be less than 50,000 hectares.

Tabay said the required hectares may make them opt to open oil palm investments in adjacent Marilog District.

He claimed that lands planted with rice and corn would not be converted, as the needed number of hectares will be sourced in cogonal areas.

The city agriculture office said efforts to promote other products such as coffee and cacao got only limited financial and business support.

City Information Officer Leo Villareal said another company, Koljan from Singapore, had talks with City Administrator two weeks ago to look into investing a 30,000 hectare project in Marilog District.

Villareal said that this project may expand up to 50,000 hectares.

He said the proposal was initially agreed by one of the Marilog indigenous leaders Datu Tomanding Liwas, but this project would still need the city council to gather the concurrence of other indigenous leaders in Marilog.

Councilor Danilo Dayanghirang said both projects in Paquibato and Marilog fit well with the city’s plan to diversify investments away from urban areas to the countrysides.

“The coming in of oil palm is very necessary. Urban development is not enough to sustain the city. We need the agriculture sector to be strong and vibrant so that the farmers there can have purchasing power to come to the city, and urban residents likewise can go to the farms,” he said.

Dayanghirang said he would welcome plantations over mining companies which reportedly have applied for mining exploration in Marilog and Paquibato.

But economic think-tank IBON Foundation warns the consequence of oil palm plantations on the region’s food security. It said that massive expansion of oil palm plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia had led to the destruction of its rainforests. its main product, palm oil, is used mainly as biofuel.

“Malaysian and Indonesian rainforests are being bulldozed for oil palm plantations—threatening endangered orangutans, rhinos, tigers, and countless other species—in order to serve the booming European market for biodiesel,” an Ibon report posted on its website said.

IBON said in its 2013 economic report that a state-owned Indonesian company is eyeing 120,000 hectares of oil palm in Mindanao, and another 30,000 hectares by First Pacific Co. Ltd. In Davao Oriental. (davaotoday.com)
Original source: Davao Today
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