DA cites benefits to farmers, and food security for the country

By Marvyn N. Benaning
Published online on the April 11, 2007 issue of the Manila Bulletin

Food sufficiency and security, as well as the welfare of agrarian reform beneficiaries and other small farm stakeholders, were the primary objectives of the Department of Agriculture (DA) in forging 19 agribusiness agreements with China.

The agreements were signed by Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap.

Agriculture Undersecretary Segfredo Serrano made this clarification in reaction to allegations made by leaders of the Fair Trade Alliance (FTA) who questioned the wisdom of the deals inked with Chinese corporations.

Serrano’s statement confirms the fear of agrarian reform beneficiaries that their land will be offered to the Chinese investors who are themselves worried about the possibility that China would be a net importer of food by 2015.

The DA claimed that the millions of hectares of land to be managed and controlled by Chinese managers will come from agrarian reform areas even as the department has not asked any single beneficiary of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) if he will consent to the deal.

Moreover, Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) reportedly committed 1.24 million hectares and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) vowed to produce 4 million hectares, roughly the total rice production area of the entire country.

All the DA can say is that when it entered into these agreements, it has ensured that “the rules and mechanisms that will safeguard our farmers and our sovereign interests are in place and protected by existing Philippine laws and regulations.”

“The draft implementing guidelines on these agreements would state that the food security and sufficiency of the country shall be the utmost priority at all times,” Serrano said. “This implies that the DA has the authority to intervene in the trade of the produce of the ventures to meet the food security needs of the country.”

A Convergence Secretariat, consisting of representatives from the DA, the Departments of Agrarian Reform (DA) and of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) are in the process of completing the implementing guidelines that will serve as the overall guidelines for all agribusiness investments in the Philippines.

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