ANAKPAWIS Rep. Fernando Hicap is batting for a ban on the conversion of prime agricultural lands into other uses to avoid food shortage and protect the environment and ecology.
The party-list lawmaker authored House Bill 5563 citing that land use conversion ultimately is a “grave threat” to the country’s food security as it continues to significantly reduce the size of land available for rice and other crop production.
Between 1991 and 2002, the total national farm area hectarage has dramatically shrunk by 304,078 hectares, he said.
“In Cavite alone, from 1983 to 1989, the number of hectares of rice lands decreased from 14,710 to 12,800,” he added.
Prime rice lands that once lined both sides of the highways going to Central Luzon and Southern Luzon have been practically erased in just a matter of four years from 1990 to 1994, he said.
“Even the highly irrigated rice lands have not been spared to give way to non-productive projects that have narrow and short-term benefits such as real estate ‘developments’ that mainly serve the luxuries of the elite,” he raised.
Citing a report of the National Statistics Office, over 800,000 hectares of lands have already been converted to other uses since 1972, Hicap said.
The loss of prime agricultural lands to land use conversion has been a factor to the further weakening and deterioration of agriculture sector, he stressed.
“It has wasted away the most productive lands, driving the dispossessed farmers to marginal areas of the hinterlands, thus adding greater pressure to the country’s depleting land resources,” he said.
Under the proposed measure, the Department of Agriculture is mandated to conduct a survey, with the involvement of the National Mapping and Research Information Authority to delineate prime agricultural lands from non-prime agricultural lands.
It shall strictly prohibit land use conversion of prime agricultural lands until Congress has enacted a national land use plan.
Hicap said the bill aims to reverse the slide toward total food insecurity.