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Group chides DAR for seeking expansion of oil palm plantation.

FARMERS belonging to the militant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) on Sunday criticized the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) for pursuing the expansion of oil palm plantations in Palawan, Central Visayas and Mindanao.

The group said the DAR has a lot of explaining to do for 'agressively promoting' oil palm over rice and other agricultural food in the face of diminishing land devoted to food production.

'Farmers have no farm to cultivate. We need to enhance palay [rice] production to meet the increasing demand. Why cultivate palm oil and expand areas devoted to it,' KMP Chairman Danilo Ramos said in a statement.

The DAR is soliciting proposals from its regional offices for the oil palm expansion program that was directed by President Duterte in July.

The KMP noted that the expansion is part of the National Roadmap on Oil Palm that targets to expand oil palm plantations in the country to 1 million hectares by 2023.

The initial 80,000-hectare expansion is targeted in Palawan, Central Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Caraga, Southern Mindanao, Socckssargen and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Based on the road map, the government intends to utilize 353,000 hectares of land in the countryside for oil palm.

'We need our lands for rice and food production. There are millions of landless farmers. Why would the DAR devote vast tract of lands for the expansion of oil palm plantations that would mainly benefit foreign companies?' Ramos said.

Malaysian firm Alif Oil Trading Inc. is reportedly eyeing to invest $1 billion for oil palm plantation in the Philippines. It requires 128,000 hectares of land for palm oil in Agusan del Sur.

The President wanted to integrate the palm-oil cultivation under the administration's efforts to close deals with the communist rebels in Mindanao, noting that vast areas of lands they occupied are suitable for palm plantations.

At present, more than 24,000 hectares are devoted to oil palm plantation, mainly in the Caraga region, considered as among the poorest regions in the country.

The country has eight palm oil mills owned by six firms, namely: Univanich Carmen Palm Oil Mill, Filipinas Palm Oil Plantation Inc., Kenram Industrial and Development Inc., A. Brown Energy Resources Devt., PALM Inc. and Agumil Phil Inc.

On October 11 KMP, together with the Philippine Network for Food Security Programmes and other land-reform advocates, will sponsor a national conference on anti-landgrabbing.

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Publication:Business Mirror (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Oct 8, 2018
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