OK to turn farmlands into subdivisions? Villar defends housing projects in agri areas

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 02 2020 01:16 AM | Updated as of Sep 02 2020 10:25 AM

MANILA - Sen. Cynthia Villar on Tuesday defended the construction of houses and factories in farmlands, saying the Philippines’ agriculture sector can thrive even with limited soil and water.

While farming is an important livelihood in the Philippines, it is “wrong” to stop construction projects in rural areas, said Villar, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Food and Agrarian Reform chair whose family also owns a real estate conglomerate.

Villar and her family have been accused of destroying forests and rice fields as they continue to expand their empire of malls, subdivisions and condominiums across the country.

In June, the Villar's real estate firm began chopping down some 53 pine trees in Baguio City to make way for the construction of a condominium in the popular tourist destination in northern Luzon.

“ ’Yung sinasabi na huwag i-convert ang farmland para magtayo ng bahay at ng factory, mali ’yun," she said in a Senate hearing.

(It is wrong to say that farmlands can’t be used to build houses or factories.)

“We need to build small homes for Filipinos para hindi naman sila squatter, and we need to build factories para may trabaho.

(We need to build small homes for Filipinos so that they will not become illegal settlers, and we need to build factories to generate jobs.)

“Bakit ipagbabawal ’yun, importante din ’yun sa ekonomiya.”

(Why should we ban it when it is also important to the economy.)

As an example, Villar cited Israel, which has been able to produce crops even when it’s not rich in fertile soil and water.

Israel does not have good soil because it is in the “middle of the desert” and needs to desalinate saltwater from its coastline, and yet the country continues to produce its own vegetables, the Senator said.

The country has been using suspended planters and has been misting its crops instead of planting on the ground, which requires more water, she said.

“Hindi kailangan ng lupa, hindi kailangan ng tubig. Ang kailangan natin technology,” said Villar, who has been admonishing the allocation of funds for research projects that cannot be implemented.

(We don’t need land, we don’t need water. What we need is technology.)