Thursday, December 25, 2008 [ manilatimes.net ]
By Ira Karen Apanay, Senior Reporter
TO regulate the conversion of farmlands for non-food uses, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap wants Congress anew to immediately act on a long-pending legislative measure on national land use policy.
“We cannot convert our premium lands devoted to food production. If we want to expand our biofuels crops, we have to go to the uplands. That’s why we are calling on Congress to pass the Land Use Code so that we can delineate which lands can be used for agricultural and non-agricultural purposes,” Yap said.
Many bills on land-use have been filed in Congress since the Ramos administration. None became a law.
Yap said the proposed Land Use Act would, in the long term, help stop the unbridled conversion of prime farmlands into non-agricultural uses such as industrial parks, shopping malls, golf courses or housing projects.
He said a national land use policy would identify which areas in the country should be developed for agricultural, residential and in-dustrial purposes. On agriculture, a land-use policy would help in the development of a domestic biofuels industry that would not conflict with the growing of food crops.
Yap expressed the hope Congress would consider deliberating and passing the land use measures when it reopens session next year. Both chambers are on their traditional Christmas break and would resume session on January 19.
The pending legislative measures in both chambers of Congress—Senate Bill No. 76 filed by Senator Loren Legarda and House Bill 3175 authored by Rep. Antonio Cerilles of Zam-boanga del Sur—aim to categorize lands for agricultural production, human settlements, infrastructure development or as protected areas.
On biofuels, Yap noted that besides providing Filipino farmers with alternative sources of income, the development of the country’s biofuels sector would also help the country become less dependent on imported fossil fuel.
He pointed out that while the prices of crude oil in the world market have drastically dropped from $140 to as low as $34 a barrel, prices could jump back to above $100 a barrel levels once the world’s major economies start recovering.