FARMERS MAY LOSE CONTROL OF 1.2 MILLION FARMLANDS UNDER RP-CHINA DEALS

Farmers may lose control of over a million hectares of farmland under four agreements on agriculture the Philippines signed with China last January, according to independent think-tank IBON Foundation.

At least four of the 18 agreements entered into by the Philippines with China required government to commit 1.24 million hectares for the cultivation of hybrid rice, hybrid corn and hybrid sorghum.

Last week, the Department of Agrarian Reform had announced it was looking at 400,000 to 500,000 hectares of land for agribusiness development under a memorandum of agreement with China signed January 2007. But the deals could ultimately cover as much as 8.8 million hectares of “idle alienable and disposable lands and forest lands.”

Land reconcentration, in which land distributed under land reform programs reverts to the landlords, is highly possible if these deals will be fully implemented. Past experience has shown that arrangements wherein farmers are asked to enter into production and marketing tie-ups with agri-business corporations lead not only to farmers losing control of their lands, but losing ownership altogether.

The RP-China farm deals may also threaten the country’s food security as more and more lands are shifted from food staples such as rice, to production of crops for biofuels. Since the mid-1990s, the country is already completely a net food importer from being a net food exporter in earlier years.

China ‘s rapid economic expansion makes it one of the most voracious consumers of fuel in the world and thus, its demand for biofuels is expected to grow in the coming years. But since domestically China prioritizes food production over need for biofuels production, it is turning to East Asian producers such as the Philippines to meet its growing biofuel needs.

The Philippine Biofuels Act of 2006 does not prohibit corporate growers from converting lands dedicated to food crops to large-scale bioethanol and biodiesel production for export if they find it more profitable than producing crops for domestic food consumption

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