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Land conversion leads to agri drop

Agriculture, fishery sector in W. Visayas suffers from decline as residential, business enclaves rise on farms

ILOILO CITY—Massive conversion of farms was seen as among the leading reasons for the consistent decline in agricultural production in Western Visayas, which had pulled down growth in other sectors.

Ro-Ann Bacal, Western Visayas director of the National Economic Development Authority, said the agriculture and fishery sector continued to decline in the last four years.

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Total production in agriculture, forestry and fishery contracted by 1.9 percent last year after also registering a decline of 0.7 percent in 2015.

Fishery alone recorded a negative growth of 2.9 percent after a contraction of 3.4 percent in 2015.

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But Bacal said land conversion should not be totally stopped as development of land for other specific uses was essential.

“We have to be strict in deciding [on] projects for conversion,” Bacal told reporters at the sidelines of an economic briefing of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) here last week.

She cited the need for land conversion to put up mills and warehouses.

The PSA report did not include data on the total area of agricultural lands converted into other uses. Bacal also did not provide figures.

But residential enclaves have been sprouting in recent years in neighboring areas of Iloilo City, which are mainly agricultural, including the towns of Pavia, San Miguel, Sta. Barbara and Oton.

According to Bacal, Western Visayas, particularly Iloilo province, has been experiencing a surge in construction activities in government infrastructure projects like roads and ports, and in private sector-led projects like shopping malls, condominium buildings, office spaces and residential units in subdivisions.

But construction in the region significantly slowed down last year, registering a growth of 11.6 percent from 49.9 percent in 2015.

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This pulled down the growth of the industry sector from 23.3 percent in 2015 to 11.5 percent last year. It offset the surge in growth in mining and quarrying (mostly coal mining on Semirara Island in Antique province), which increased from 1.9 percent in 2015 to 34.5 percent last year.

Bacal attributed the slowdown to fewer construction projects during the election period and the period of adjustment due to a new administration.

Fred Sollesta, PSA Western Visayas director, said the drop in construction growth was also due to projects that were started in 2015 but were continued to be implemented last year.

The continued decline in agriculture, forestry and fishery and a significant slowing down in growth in construction dragged down the economic growth of the region last year after posting a significant growth in 2015.

The gross regional domestic product (GRDP) growth of Western Visayas dropped from 8.3 percent in 2015 to 6.1 percent last year, according to a report by the PSA.

The region’s growth rate ranked eighth among 17 regions last year, lower than its second spot in 2015.

The GRDP is the total goods and services produced in a region in a year and serves as a main economic performance indicator.

Bacal said there was still momentum for growth for Western Visayas despite a slowdown in its economic performance last year.

She noted that the region’s employment and inflation rates remained steady.

She said massive government infrastructure projects, including a bridge network connecting Panay, Guimaras and Negros Islands, were in the pipeline.

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TAGS: Agriculture, Business, fishery
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