By TYRONE A. VELEZ
Davao City– The Department of Agriculture (DA) Region XI is seeking Php 1 billion to rehabilitate damaged farms and plant various crops in an intercropping program aimed to replace damaged coconut cultivates hit by Typhoon Pablo.
But a typhoon’s survivors grouped slammed the government’s intercropping program because this would include genetically modified organisms (GMOs) such as high-value corn variety that would be detrimental to the farms.
DA XI Regional Director Remelyn Recoter said during Monday’s Kapehan sa Davao that part of the 1-billion project is an allocation of Php 300 million to support intercropping programs for farmers whose original source of livelihood of coconut farming was devastated with last year’s supertyphoon.
“We would like to provide them like corn, cacao, coffee and vegetables,” said Recoter. She later added chili as one of the crops with potential for the export market.
The director said the budget awaited approval in the fourth cabinet meeting in Malacañang but was postponed last week as President Benigno Aquino III went off to Zamboanga City to oversee the resolution of the crisis spawned with the MNLF standoff.
Recoter said the original amount they requested was Php 39-billion for resettlement, social and infrastructure support proposed by local officials in the provinces but was trimmed down to Php 11 billion.
“There were comments from the President that it seems like we have a lot of wish list. During the third cabinet meeting it went down to P11 billion,” she said.
Recoter said they expect the proposal will be discussed by the end of the month, and once approved they will implement the program by the fourth quarter of this year.
Typhoon Pablo, which hit majority of the towns of Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley, damaged crops worth P30 billion.
The department said the damages include six million coconut trees in Davao Oriental alone. Around 96,000 hectares of agricultural land have been affected comprised of rice, corn, banana, coffee and cacao.
The DA-XI requested for additional Php 1-billion last January for the support of typhoon-ravaged provinces such as rehabilitation of farm facilities.
But for Barug Katawhan, a group of Typhoon Pablo victims that protested early this year against the lack of government support, the rehabilitation project is inconsistent with the government’s plan of allowing “destructive” foreign-owned plantations such as palm oil.
Barug Katawhan spokesperson Karlos Trangia said the San Miguel Corp-owned Agusan Petroleum Corp. (AgPetCo) investment of 12,000 hectares in the municipality of Compostela in Compostela Valley Province is hurting the farmers.
The farmers living in nearby barangays are already rehabilitating their own intercrop farms through the support by NGOs and Davao schools.
Recoter said the entry of palm oil investments depends on the approval of small landowners.
But Trangia said the companies could easily entice farmers into farm conversion by promising huge income, as what happened in Compostela and Trento, Agusan del Sur respectively.
Trangia also said agri-workers in banana plantations in Compostela are still languishing in extreme poverty as they were laid-off after Typhoon Pablo.
“Gusto namo tabang nga makabarog ang mga mag-uuma, dili matali sa pautang o sa kadaut sa yuta, (We want help that would benefit the farmers, not for them to be tied up to debt or to the destruction of their lands),” said Trangia. (Tyrone A. Velez/davaotoday.com)barug katawhan, compostela valley, davao oriental, Department of Agriculture XI, palm oil, typhoon Pablo