DA’s plea to IPs: Convert idle ancestral lands into farmlands amid ECQ
MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Agriculture (DA) is asking indigenous peoples (IPs) to transform portions of their idle ancestral lands into food production areas to ensure stable food supply amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
“In this time of crisis, we need practical strategies that can produce immediate results. Thus, we are calling on our fellow countrymen, the indigenous peoples or IPs, to transform part if not most of their idle ancestral lands into vegetable and high-value crop farms,” Agriculture Secretary William Dar said in a release on Thursday.
“Our IPs can also consider going into diversified farming systems, integrating vegetable and livestock raising, that will provide them not only continuous source of food but also a source of additional income,” he added.
Dar pledged that the DA “will allot a substantial budget to bankroll the enhanced food production program in ancestral lands.”
“It forms part of the Duterte administration’s P31-billion Plant, Plant, Plant Program, where we will, among other projects, intensify the promotion of urban and community agriculture as one of the interventions to help ensure availability of and access to food nationwide,” the DA chief said.
Citing the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the DA noted that IPs occupy around 7.7 million hectares or 26% of the country’s total land area of 30 million hectares.
The NCIP states that ancestral domains “refer to all areas belonging to IPs comprising lands, inland waters, coastal areas, and natural resources therein, held under a claim of owner-occupied or possessed by the [Indigenous Cultural Communities/IPs], by themselves or through their ancestors, communally or individually since time immemorial.”
These ancestral domains, which cannot be sold or mortgaged, are communally owned and private in nature “but are beyond the commerce of men,” according to the NCIP. As of 2019, the NCIP has issued 243 certificates of ancestral domain titles, with a total land area of 5.7 million hectares and a total of 1.3 million IPs as rights holders.
Dar noted that the DA realigned its programs and refocused its budget to enhance food production as it is “is as equally important as a major strategy” in the fight against the pandemic.
“Aside from profitable types of vegetables — like onion, string beans, potato, carrots, pineapple, garlic, cauliflower, and watermelon — our brother IPs can grow cacao, coffee, abaca or black pepper, or they may go into raising native pigs and free-range chicken,” Dar said. The DA also listed down ampalaya, asparagus, cabbage, cassava, garlic, ginger, mungbean, papaya, peanut, sweet potato and tomato as other crop IPs can grow.
The DA recently reiterated its appeal to local government units (LGUs), specifically of Bukidnon province, to allow the continuous operations of food-producing plantations such as sugar mills to ensure stable food supply and avoid “artificial shortage and price hikes” during these times.
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