[In the news] Biofuel program may affect CARP, food security – group | The Manila Bulletin Newspaper Online

Biofuel program may affect CARP, food security – group | The Manila Bulletin Newspaper Online.

By MARVYN N. BENANING
Manila Bulletin

MANILA, Philippines — Large-scale conversions of prime agricultural lands in Cavite, Isabela and Quezon into biofuel production areas undermine the agrarian reform program and endanger food security.

This was the conclusion of Danilo T. Carranza of the Rural Poor Institute for Land and Human Rights Services, Inc. (RIGHTS), a private think-tank that undertook a field study of the farming areas in the three provinces that had been transformed into hubs for the cultivation of biofuel feedstock. Carranza asked President Aquino to rethink the impact of the Philippine Biofuels Act of 2006, Republic Act 9367.

He said that in Cavite and Isabela, long land leases had been resorted to by the biofuel companies, with the farmers not having copies of their agreements with the corporations.

Worse, the consolidation of the contiguous areas has continued and the agrarian reform beneficiaries had been reduced to work for low wages, with some farmers in Isabela reporting that they receive only between P50 and P98 daily.

In Barangay Alitabad, San Mariano, Isabela, an irrigation project costing P52 million started five years was abruptly stalled, denying water to farmers tilling 140 hectares of land, with some of them suspecting it could be a ploy to compel them to lease their land to the biofuel company.

In all three provinces, prime agricultural land is being converted to biofuel feedstock production, reducing them to work for slave wages and pushing back the country’s deadline to meet the deadline for rice selfsufficiency in 2013.

Carranza said that in Magallanes, Cavite, 23 agrarian reform beneficiaries who had possessed certificates of landownership awards (CLOAs) for 17 years run the risk of being relocated from a property that has designated as the
production plant for bioethanol, with the Remulla family purportedly telling them will be transferred elsewhere.

Carranza said of the 2,500 hectares for the project, 1,500 are in Magallanes, 500 hectares of which are covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

“Areas so far engaged in Magallanes were previously planted to rice and vegetables. The project has an existing nursery covering 100 hectares in Barangay, Pacheco, previously planted to rice and vegetables,” he added.

The Cavite Biofuel Producers, Inc. (CBPI) was organized in 2008 with the Lopa family, VG Puyat Group and the Zamora family as shareholders, with Penwood Corp. as the developer of a 6.500-hectare property in Magallanes and Maragondon towns with an option to subscribe to some shares.

The Cavite Sugarcane Multi-Planters Cooperative will supply the sugarcane for the CBPI, which secured leases from agrarian reform beneficiaries.

In Isabela, the biofuel complex covers an ethanol energy production site and a sugarcane production site, with Green Future Innovations, Inc. operating then bioethanol plant, capitalized at $120 million.

The company was organized in 2007 by a group of Japanese and Filipino stockholders, including the Uys of Mindanao Grains and the Bantugs who are Negros-based sugar planters. It will be operational next year.

About 11,000 hectares will be utilized as sugarcane plantations, with the company taking over 6,460 hectares this year from 3,230 farmercooperators, Carranza reported.

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