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PIA Press Release

Commentary: We cannot eat subdivisions, can we?

By Nene A. Manzanares

Catarman, Northern Samar (21 July) -- They sprout almost everywhere. And sometimes we see them in (as the song goes) some unexpected places. Row houses. Bungalows. Even mansions. They form small communities which are usually outside of capital towns, big cities or highly urbanized areas. These small communities are called subdivisions. Teeners are more comfortable calling them as villages. And the latter is actually more apt. These so called villages usually occupy what was once an agricultural land. Some were rice lands.

This is what we pay for "development". Public administrators call it the factor of "space" in urbanization. But what a price to pay for.

Being a "camote" eater, I would once in a while visit the local market and buy some. One time, I noticed that my favorite staple food has not only shrunk twice its size but also seemingly scarce in the root crops area of the market. I told the "tindero" about these observations and he readily answered, "Dire maupay an katubo." (They did not grow well.) This seemed acceptable, but I was stunned by his next statement, "Dire na hiluag am taramnan. Puro na semento" ("Our planting field is not as wide as before. The area is now cemented."

The field for planting rootcrops is gone. And in its place is a village with posh houses for the "can afford". My "camotes" will now have to find a place where they can grow well.

But how about if we are talking about rice? In these times of global food crisis, can we allow our rice fields to bow down to infrastucture projects? To modern villages? To subdivisions?

But of course we cannot eat subdivisions. Even those living in these modern villages have to eat.

The move therefore of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to suspend for two years the processing and approval of all land conversion applications of rice lands is a wise move to avert shortfall of rice production.

The President said in Administrative Order 226-A that to ensure the sufficiency of rice supply in the country it is important that all lands utilized and intended for rice production are protected from any other land use or conversion.

The President said that to "meet the needs of the increasing number of Filipinos, there is a need for the production of rice to be optimized to meet our local needs and consumption".

And if we talk about figures, our rice record says it all. Presently, only 90 percent of the country's rice requirements is locally produced and the 10 percent supply shortfall is imported, mostly from Vietnam and Thailand.

We need to do something about this shortfall. And one such measure is the suspension of the processing and approval of land conversion applications.

And if two years need to be extended, then the administration should do so. This again is to support the move of the government to gear up and attain self-sufficiency in the staple crop in five years.

A round of applause for AO 226-A! No to land conversion in the immediate future! We cannot eat subdivisions, can we? (PIA-Northern Samar) [top]

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