Villar: Don’t blame developers for grains crisis

By Fel V. Maragay, Macon Ramos Araneta, Michael Caber
Manila Standard Today

SENATE President Manuel Villar, who made his fortune in real estate, yesterday defended the practice of converting rice fields and farmlands to housing subdivisions, despite a looming food crisis.

“We have a big rice problem. But we also have a big housing problem. We have a backlog of four million housing units,” Villar said.

He made his statement after Malacañang said it would impose a moratorium on the conversion of rice fields into residential sites, industrial estates, golf courses and shopping malls.

Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri said the indiscriminate conversion was the reason the country had failed to be self-sufficient in rice.

Villar owns a number of real estate firms with housing projects in Metro Manila and the Southern Tagalog provinces.

The Senate president said the acute housing problem had been aggravated by the migration of the rural population to cities.

“The problem is that many farmers have stopped planting and they have migrated to the cities,” Villar said. “Almost half of the Philippine population is now living in urban areas.

“You cannot solve the problem of food by not solving the problem of housing. The best approach is to solve the two problems simultaneously.”

Click here to read full text.

Of course developers should not be blamed for grains crisis, but for the sake of the nation's food security, they should at least consider if in the long run it is the wiser and the right thing to do to build houses on agricultural lands. In the priority list of man's basic needs, food is the first. What is the use of having a house when you have nothing to eat?

Poor farmers sell their farmlands because they don't have the needed capital resources to make their lands productive -- most of them are born without fortune. So in order to survive (even though for a very short while), they are tempted to sell their farmlands to unscrupulous developers because they are encouraged by the easy and quick money that these developers kept offering.

And the result, these farmers and their families leave their barangays in the rural areas and migrate to urban areas and flock there as squatters or illegal settlers among those who are already overcrowding the slums. This situation gives a big problem to urban governments.

Then the government would attempt to solve the problem of urban squatting by building "affordable" mass settlements away from the urban areas. But when the squatters move to their "new" locations, they found out later that they could not make a living there because it turned out to be the same situation before while they were in their old barangays -- areas of lands but there are no support resources available to make it productive.

And so the cycle continues. Since they have no livelihood, they sell again their property -- but this time it is no longer land, but their housing unit. Then they leave the rural housing area and go back to the urban areas and flock there again in the slums where they hope to find a living in the midst and in the surrounding urban lives.

Now where do you think lies the sources and causes of these series of problems that these poor members of our society are experiencing?

For fishes to function normally and be useful, they should be in the waters. So also in like manner, farmers should be in their farmlands -- supported with every needed resources in their trade so that they can provide for the nations food needs, and in the process, earn a decent living that fits to their God-given calling.

Almost every nation started with an agricultural economy as the foundation. If our nation's economic foundation is weakened, so is our society be also weakened. But if our economic foundation is strong and flourishing, not only will our society also be strong, but other areas of our economy will also begin to grow strong and flourish because there will be a natural economic chain reaction that will result.

The Lord smelled the sweet savor. He said in his heart, “I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake, because the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I ever again strike everything living, as I have done. While the earth remains, seed time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:21-22)