DO you want to see houses built on farmlands?
Senators Raffy Tulfo and Cynthia Villar clashed Thursday over the conversion of farmlands into commercial and residential areas as they tackled the Department of Agriculture budget in the Senate plenary.
Tulfo said farmlands in the country have been dwindling as land developers have snapped these up from farmers forced to sell due to financial challenges.
“Lumiliit nang lumiliit po ang ating farmlands, binibili po ng malalaking developer at ginagawang commercial at residential land. Ano po ang ginagawa ng DA tungkol dito?” Tulfo asked.
Villar, whose family owns property developer Vista Land & Lifescapes, felt alluded to. She immediately acknowledged that her family was in the real estate business.
Their subdivisions can be found all over the country.
Villar clarified that their company does not buy agricultural land in the provinces, only in cities and capital towns.
“Nobody will buy houses in agricultural land. We only buy in cities and capital towns. The buyers of houses, they want also an opportunity that if they’re having financial problems, they can resell their houses. It’s very hard to resell houses not in cities or capital towns,” she said.
But Tulfo said he has proof that a lot of farmlands have now been turned into subdivisions. This is why he wants to see the swift passage of the proposed National Land Use Act, he added.
Villar said conversion of farmlands into other uses is allowed in cities and capital towns, as the land is purchased at a high price.
“And then you can reinvest the money and you will make more money than planting on those lands,” she said.
Deciding to sell farmlands is an “investment decision,” she said.
“If somebody will buy your land at a bigger amount, you can sell it and buy another land that is cheaper somewhere else and build your farm there…You have to understand agriculture as a business also,” she said.
But Tulfo insisted that he wants to know what the DA is doing about this “bad system” that has been reducing the size of farmlands in the country.
Villar disagreed with his assertion.
“Where will the people live if you don’t build subdivisions?” she said.
Tulfo retorted that there are many areas where houses could be built without taking over farms.
According to him, farmers are being taken advantage of because they are struggling now, hard-pressed to compete with the flood of cheap imported rice into the country that have been allowed under the Rice Tariffication Act.
This prompted Villar to defend the law, which she had sponsored in the Senate.
She said the law was necessary because the price of rice rose to P50 to P60 per kilo in 2018.
The Philippines’ credit rating would have been at risk as well if it did not liberalize rice importation, she said.
The collection from the rice tariff have also been used for the benefit of farmers, she added.
“I don’t feel any guilt to the small farmers,” she said.