Thursday, October 11, 2007

[PBN] Food vs Fuel debate in Philippines


Hunger in Philippines to rice as gov't prioritizes fuel over food

Published on October 3, 2007 at 1:49 pm | Email · Share · Digg · Print

Environmental activists today warned of " hunger rates hitting
near-famine levels if the Arroyo administration continues to
prioritize fuel over food by aggressively promoting the massive
conversion of agricultural lands into plantations for biofuel
production ."

Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) sounded
the alarm after the recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) surveys again
indicated a record-high peak in national hunger rates, where
3.8-million families (21.5 percent) experienced "involuntary hunger"
at least once in the last three months. This figure is higher than the
hunger rates recorded in November 2006 and February 2007.

" It's ironic that millions of Filipino families have literally
nothing to eat, while millions of hectares are being cordoned off by
the government to grow crops for fuel," Kalikasan PNE National
Coordinator Clemente Bautista Jr. Bautista said today in a statement.

"The current administration is auctioning off more and more
agriculturally-productive lands as prime lots to biofuels investors
and foreign mining giants. This only means that there will be even
less land for Filipino farmers to grow food," Bautista said.

"We demand that the Arroyo administration quit sacrificing Philippine
food security over a few sweet biofuels deals it has entered into. The
administration is apparently greenwashing its anti-people projects
while neglecting the issue of food security for the Filipino people ,"
Bautista said.

Bautista noted that in addition to such controversial contracts with
foreign firms such as the NBN ZTE deal, the Arroyo administration and
local bioethanol producers also signed four joint venture deals with
Chinese partners for domestic bioethanol production involving hundreds
of thousands of hectares of agricultural lands.

These include the (a) MOAs between the Nanning Yongkai Industry Group
and B.M. SB Integrated Biofuels Company on joint venture to establish
bioethanol plants in the country, (b) MOA between China National
Constructional and Agricultural Machinery Import and Export
Corporation (CAMCE) and Palawan Bio-Energy Development Corp, (c) MOA
between One Cagayan Resource Development Center Inc. and the Nanning
Yongkai Industry Group to develop bio-ethanol plants that would each
have a capacity to produce at least 150,000 liters a day, and (d)
Memorandum of Agreement Negros Southern Integrated Biofuels Company
and Nanning Yong Kai Industry Group Co., Ltd.

Bautista also noted that the state-run Philippine National Oil
Co.-Alternative Fuels Corp. (PNOC-AFC), which was revitalized in 2006
to accelerate the utilization and commercialization of alternative
fuels in the country, is eyeing some 1.2 million hectares of land in
Mindanao for a P5-P10 billion jatropha production project.

"The current hunger rates recorded by the SWS are already alarming. We
in Kalikasan PNE are alarmed because in the next few years, even less
land will be made available for food to feed Filipino families because
these will be reserved for biodiesel crop production ," Bautista said.

Bautista said that biofuels production was an inadequate environmental
response if it would only generate grave domino effects on
biodiversity, agricultural production, and the people's food security.

"A balance between food and biofuel production must be attained.
However, it is hard to imagine the Arroyo administration of being
capable of this vision. As many of its controversial deals such as the
NBN ZTE deal shows, our current government officials being interested
in the kickbacks and windfalls of projects rather than in their
long-term and widespread benefit to the people ," Bautista said. ###

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