Monday, November 08, 2004 KORONADAL CITY -- A militant farmers' group lastweek has expressed opposition to the planned expansion of palm oilplantations in South Cotabato claiming it would result into "massive landand crop conversions in the area."
Elizer Billanes, secretary general of the Samahan ng Magsasaka ng TimogKutabato (Samatiku), also raised fears palm oil production in the provincewould pave the way for "landlords to evade the implementation of theagrarian reform program."
Earlier, agriculture officials in South Cotabato backed the expansionprojects initiated by Kenram Philippines over several towns in theprovince for the planting of palm oil.
Rey Legasti, provincial agriculture officer, said all the areas in SouthCotabato, except Lake Sebu town, are suitable for cultivating palm oilplantations.
"We have monitored that the company has been enticing farmers to cultivatepalm oil. We see no problems with it so long as the endeavor would notpose risk to the environment," Legasti said.
Billanes said that if palm oil plantations would be introduced in theprovince, food security in the area would be put in danger.
"There will be additional and massive land and crop conversions in theprovince. Our agricultural lands suitable for staple food production likepalay and corn will be planted with palm oil," he said.
"(Palm oil plantations) poses a threat to food security...there will beshortfall of local food production, thereby giving the government ajustification to import rice and other agricultural crops," he added.
Billanes said the palm oil expansion "would damage the province'sagricultural sector and further increase the farmers' economic woes."
Moreover, the conversion of various food crop plantations into palm oilfarms "could be a way for landlords to avoid the implementation of theagrarian reform program."
Billanes noted that in such situation, there would be "massive ejection offarm tenants."