Land use plan gets final council nod

June 25th, 2013 by

AS EXPECTED, the Davao City Comprehensive Land Use Plan (Clup) got the final approval by the City Council Monday afternoon.

The council passed the measure on third and final reading, with the title “An ordinance approving and adopting the zoning ordinance of Davao City for 2013-2022, incorporating as integral part thereof, Volume 1, which is the Clup, and volume 3, which is the sectoral studies.”

It garnered 23 votes from all the council members who were present Monday.

Councilor Melchor Quitain was the presiding officer.

Incoming Mayor Rodrigo Duterte was on vacation leave, while Councilors Karlo Bello and Paolo Duterte were on official business.

Councilor Bernard Al-ag failed to vote because he arrived late.

Meanwhile, around 100 environment advocates broke into cheers as the ordinance was finally approved.

The amendments included the declaration of conservation zones and the establishment of buffer zones between conflicting zones like commercial and residential zones or industrial and agricultural zones. A minimum of 10 meters of buffer zone planted with trees is mandated in this amended Clup.

“In behalf of the civil society who actively and substantially provided inputs in the drafting of the revisions to the Clup, we would like to thank the councilors for approving the ordinance after so many deliberations,” said Idis Executive Director Ann Fuertes.

Despite some last minute fears of an intense lobby by subdivision developers against the proposed zoning of Shrine Hills into an Urban Ecological Enhancement Sub-zone, the ordinance was quickly approved by all the councilors present. It was their first agenda on this last day of their council session.

Fuertes, however, said that while this is a victory for the advocates of the Green Davao vision, there are still lots of work to be done.

Also included in the amended Clup is the addition of the Water Resource Areas, as well as the declaration of Marine Protected Areas in the city.

The zoning ordinance also provides the no-reclassification policy within five years for all areas identified under general zone (agriculture, conservation, water resource, and non-tillage) and three years for sub-urban zone (residential, industrial and commercial).

However, should property developers want to reclassify a zone that has been approved under the Clup, they would need at least 75 percent or 21 votes of the City Council.

The city’s Water Resource Zone has also been mapped out.

The special use permit already issued to two memorial parks that are to be built in identified Water Resource Zone in the city may also be revoked “subject to the requirement of due process of law and when public interest so requires.”

“The next challenge is to sustain the engagement of the civil society in the implementation and monitoring of the ordinance. We won’t expect it to be easy but then as long as we are all united in seeing through our vision of a Green Davao City, the challenges will be surmountable,” Fuentes said. (Ara Casas, Sunstar Davao)

Shrine Hills now a protected zone

June 18th, 2013 by

ENVIRONMENTALISTS participating in the revisions of Davao City’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan (Clup) welcomed the City Council’s decision to protect Shrine Hills from further urbanization by designating it as a protected zone.

Idis policy advocacy specialist Chinkie Pelino lauded the move as a “strong exercise of political will” as the City Council in a special session last Thursday moved to declare Shrine Hills as an Urban Ecological Enhancement Sub-zone.

“What this means is that further subdivision development will be prohibited along the hilly terrain in order to protect its ecological value as the city’s nearest green park,” she said.

The City Council has zeroed in on the proposed Clup, conducting several special sessions, and prioritizing contentious issues on the proposed updated zoning ordinance.

The council considered the item on proposed Clup vital, discussing it effectively by holding special sessions during the first two weeks of June.

Among the controversial issues settled during the special sessions were declaring Shrine Hills as protected zone and not double low density residential zone as proposed earlier; and the possibility of revoking the special use permit already issued to two memorial parks that are to be built in identified Water Resource Zone in the city.

Councilor Arnulfo Cabling said these were the two “opposing issues” under volume 2 (proposed Updated Zoning Ordinance).

The possible revocation of the two memorial parks with special use permit issued was agreed on June 10, leading to the rewording of the Section 7.3 of the proposed ordinance as: “Subject to the requirement of due process of law and when public interest so requires, special use permit granted for cemeteries and memorial parks or areas within the water resource zone as provided within may be recalled and revoked.”

The Shrine Hills issue, on the other hand, was also settled on June 13.

On Tuesday afternoon (June 18), the City Council will tackle anew the proposed Clup embodying the updated Sectoral and Land Use Plans of the city and the draft updated zoning ordinance.

Cabling earlier said Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio has certified it as urgent in order for the City Council to approve the measure before her term ends.

Pelino, who attended the council session on the Clup amendments, also said that the City Council had agreed that upon the approval of the amendments to the zoning ordinance, all existing subdivision projects and structures at Shrine Hills will be declared “existing but non-conforming.”

Under the amended Clup, the Urban Ecological Enhancement Sub-zone is defined as “areas intended for massive greening program for ecological enhancement in major urban zone as precautionary and pro-active approach to climate change adaptation and part of risk reduction management against flooding,” particularly in areas prone to landslides.

A previous Mines and Geosciences Bureau study has identified some portions of Shrine Hills as highly susceptible to landslides and flooding.

Because of these amendments, all the Preliminary Approval on Locational Clearances (Palcs), which were granted to the high class subdivisions currently being developed in the area, will be revoked.

“Only climate mitigating and adapting development will be allowed in the area, subject to the approval of City Council and based on the guidelines that will be developed by the City Engineer’s Office,” Pelino said.

Despite the early victory, environmentalists are still keeping their fingers crossed as a lot can still happen during the days leading to Tuesday’s regular session, when the council is expected to adopt the amendments during the second reading of the proposed ordinance.

Idis executive director Ann Fuertes called on Dabawenyos to show their support for the ordinance, adopting the amendments to the Clup.

“Now more than ever, we need to support this city’s development direction by showing up at the SP (City Council) session and help push for the approval of this ordinance,” she said.

Once the ordinance is passed and the amendments adopted, Fuertes said green groups are looking forward to a participatory and multi-sectoral approach in developing Shrine Hills into a green park.  (Arianne Caryl Casas, Sunstar Davao)

Higher banana profits linked to ground spraying

June 11th, 2013 by

DAVAO CITY — Small banana farmers will earn more if they shift from aerial to manual or ground spraying, according to a study commissioned by environmental group Interface Development Interventions, Inc. (IDIS).

  The unpublished study, “Financial Assessment of Shifting from Aerial to Ground Spray in Banana Plantations in Davao Region,” reported a 19% increase in potential gross profit, from P116,000 to P138,200 per hectare per year, for small banana farmers who shifted from aerial to ground spraying.

The findings also showed that small farmers experience “negative net income” because of the high cost of aerial spraying. On average, the study estimated, aerial spraying operations cost P68,000 per hectare for year for large plantations.

In present practice, this cost is charged against the account of the small farmers, who pay an average of P73,800 per hectare per year, the study added.

The study also claimed that large plantations prefer aerial spraying because shifting to ground spraying leads to additional costs of P28,700 per hectare per year.

However, IDIS Executive Director Ann V. Fuertes has said that the increase would be due to additional infrastructure needed to maximize the results of ground spraying. Ms. Fuertes noted that the report recommended additional road networks, trucks and labor but added that profit margins would be “acceptable” despite potential losses.

“This [the study] is to show that banana industry will not die, but it is still profitable even without aerial spraying,” Ms. Fuertes said.

The IDIS officer said the group is now working to educate independent banana growers, mostly small plantations contracted by big banana firms, on the benefits of shifting to manual spray.

The study by researcher Anabeth San Gregorio covered agricultural areas in Tamayong, a remote eastern district of Davao City, and in Kapalong, Davao del Norte.

Citing environmental and health hazards, in 2007, the city government passed an ordinance to ban the aerial spraying of agrochemicals. The ordinance affected the operations of at least 5,000 hectares of banana plantations here.

Industry group Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association has challenged the ordinance, but the Supreme Court has yet to issue its ruling. (M.M. Padillo, BUSINESS WORLD ONLINE)


Organic farm advocates hail CA ruling on GMOs

June 3rd, 2013 by

DAVAO CITY—Euphoric over the Court of Appeals (CA) ruling against the field testing of  genetically modified Bt eggplants, organic farming advocates are calling for a ban on a genetically modified breed of rice known as Golden Rice.

Golden Rice contains beta carotene as a source of Vitamin A and is being developed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

Alfie Pulumbarit, advocacy officer of the nongovernment Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-Unlad ng Agrikultura (Masipag) based in Los Baños, Laguna, said the IRRI is “done testing the Golden Rice in five sites and is moving on to the efficacy tests, meaning on humans, but without testing it first on animals or conducting toxicity tests to make sure it’s safe.”

“Is there really a need for alternate sources of Vitamin A other than what nature provided us?” said Ann Fuertes, executive director of the Interface for Development Intervention.

Proponents touted the Golden Rice as the “answer” to Vitamin A deficiency among children but Fuertes said a steady consumption of fresh vegetables is effective as well.

“A daily diet of green and yellow vegetables and fruits, including sweet potato, is enough to ensure that our bodies get the right amount of Vitamin A,” she said.

The Philippine National Nutrition Council reported that the number of children suffering from Vitamin A deficiency has declined from 38 percent in 1998 to only 15.2 percent in 2008, Masipag said.

Organic farming advocates expressed concern that Golden Rice may just be a “Trojan horse,” paving the way for the entry of other genetically modified crops in the country.

Dr. Chito Medina, Masipag national coordinator, said the absence of sufficient tests should be a grave concern.

Fuertes said the country should adopt a national policy to prevent the spread of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

“Now that the government has the National Organic Agriculture Act, it makes sense to have a more encompassing national policy to ban GMOs nationwide,” Fuertes said.

“The principles of organic farming and genetically modified organisms are incompatible,” Fuertes added.

“Many countries have in fact already declared a moratorium on GMOs. It’s about time that the Philippines follows suit,” she said.

The Inquirer on Monday tried to seek comment from Dr. Desiree Hautea, one of the lead scientist-proponents of Bt eggplants, but she was unavailable for an interview.

Aside from Bt eggplants, Masipag also opposes the testing of other genetically modified crops, such as corn, abaca, cassava and papaya, which are separately being conducted by government and private agencies. (Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao and Maricar Cinco, Inquirer Southern Luzon)