Tulfo, Villar clash over converting farmlands to subdivisions

4:33 pm on 18 November 2022, Friday

By Caryl Gonzales

On the 2023 budget deliberation of the Department of Agriculture (DA), Senator Raffy Tulfo and Senator Cynthia Villar got into a heated discussion over the conversion of farmlands to residential and commercial areas.

Tulfo raised the issue of the decreasing number of farmlands in the country and questioned the DA’s action regarding the issue.

“Lumiliit nang lumiliit po ang ating farmlands, binibili po ng malalaking developer at ginagawang commercial at residential land. Ano pong ginagawa ng DA tungkol dito?” Tulfo asked.

[“Our farmlands are decreasing. Big developers are buying them and turning them into commercial and residential land. What is the DA doing about this?”]

Villar, who owns Vista Land & Lifescapes Inc.— a property developer engaged in real easte and retail industries, responded by saying, “Alam niyo… that’s our business.”

[“You know what… that’s our business,”]

She also explained they do not buy agricultural land in the provinces as “nobody will buy houses in the agricultural lands.”

“We only buy in cities and capital towns because the buyers of houses, they also want an opportunity that if they’re having financial problems, they can resell their houses.” she further said.

Tulfo stressed he has proof that the farmlands are being converted into residential lands, noting he is from Isabela.

He then reiterated that this is the reason why he wants the National Land Use Act to be passed into law.

However, Villar pointed out that buying land will make more money rather than planting on it.

“They allow conversions in cities and capital towns because if they buy your land, they buy it expensive. And you can re-invest the money, and you will make more money than planting on those lands,” she said.

Tulfo interjected saying the senator is not answering his queries and asserted many farmlands had already been commercialized.

Villar asked in response, “Where will the people live if you don’t build subdivision?”

Tulfo argued there are other lands where the subdivisions can be built, noting farmers are being taken advantage of.
“Huwag lang po i-take over iyong mga farm kasi nga, kung minsan, iyong mga farmer, dahil sila’y naghihikahos, they’re being taken advantage of,” he said.

[“Just don't take over those farms because sometimes, those farmers, because they are poor, they're being taken advantage of,”]

Meanwhile, Tulfo emphasized that real estate developers are exploiting farmers because they are losing their money due to increased prices of fertilizers and other farm inputs.

He claimed that the Rice Tarrification Law is to blame for this issue.

Villar, among the authors of the law, defended it and said the price of rice was around P50 to P60 per kilo when she drafted the legislation last 2018.

She also noted that the rice tariff proceeds were given to small rice farmers.

“I don’t feel any guilt for the small farmers. All the money that came from the rice tariffication law were given to the small farmers owning two hectares and below,” she said.

Tulfo then refocused the conversation on the DA's response to the problem of developers taking over agricultural property.

He called anew the pushing for the National Land Use Act that could help farmers from protecting their farms.

“Hindi ko po alam kung bakit hanggang ngayon, apat na presidente na po ang dumaan ay hindi pa rin po ito maipasapasa. Hindi ko po alam kung bakit,” Tulfo lamented.

[“I don't know why until now, four presidents have passed, and the bill still can't be passed. I don't know why,”]

As the argument between the two senators heated up, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri decided to adjourn the meeting in order to restore order.

After the discussion, Tulfo ended his interpellation and announced that he would be preparing a privilege speech on the National Land Use Act.


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