By Genalyn Kabiling
The country is being saddled with a “runaway population” even as agricultural lands for food crops are getting smaller, President Duterte said during a recent agrarian reform event.
The President expressed concern over the country’s growing population vis-a-vis shrinking farmlands, while discussing the need to “reconfigure” the lands to sustain the people’s food requirements.
“The problem in the Philippines is we are beset with, I said, so many — a runaway population. We are now 110, 108 (million) they say,” Duterte said during the turnover of land certificates to agrarian reform beneficiaries in Davao City last Friday.
“And if we rely only on the available lands being tilled now without improving on the technology, on the yield, we will be forever importing rice from the East ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries,” he added.
The President noted that “big corporations” were taking over agricultural lands that are being used to plant cash crops instead of food crops.
“All over Mindanao, particularly, ‘yung mga prime lands natin noon and the historical land geared for rice planting and corn are getting to be smaller and smaller and smaller everyday. The big corporations are taking over. And what they are into is agriculture but it is for cash crop. Meaning to say, they’re planting…what they are planting is, they sell. That’s why it’s called for cash,” he said.
The government must address the “dilemma” about food production to catch up with the country’s growing population, according to the President.
“We have not been able to catch up with the area where we can plant. The produce would be food crop. So there’s a dilemma there somewhere and one day government has to reconfigure to have enough land to sustain the needs of the Filipino people,” he said.
The President recently said the country has become a “baby machine” compared to the population growth of other nations. He has blamed the Catholic Church for the country’s fast growing population after supposedly trying to stop family planning methods implemented by the government.
As of August 2015, the country’s population reached 100,981,437 based on a government census. The country had 92,337,852 Filipinos in 2010, and 88,548,366 persons in 2007.
To ensure a stable supply and price of rice, President has signed a law that imposes tariffs on rice in lieu of import limits.
But the President offered a “happy compromise” to suspend rice importation during the country’s harvest season to boost the income of local farmers. Duterte, who has pushed for the liberalization of rice trading, said it was better to spend on farmers’ harvest than see them join the communist insurgency.