In order generate more employment and promote food production, the Department of Agriculture is pushing to lease government-owned lands to private corporations willing to engage in agriculture and reforestation developments.
Agricuture minister Emmanuel Pinol told Philippine media that he would submit the proposal to the president for the approval of the proposed program called Bantay Kagubatan Program (Forest Watch Program), a collaborative program of the Agriculture and Environment departments that will develop agro-forestry farming to promote reforestation and livelihood for the rural poor.
Pinol said those government-owned lands that will be allowed to be leased to private companies also includes watershed areas. The agriculture agency initially identified possible watershed areas in the Philippines for possible lease for the agro-forestry farming program. These are Kalayaan watershed area, the Sierra Madre mountain, the Pampanga River watershed area, the Panay watershed area and the Mindanao River Basin watershed area.
Pinol said that when he visited Finland he was impressed of the agro-forestry farming sector in that country wherein the agro-farming sector contributes 20% to Finland's gross domestic product as a result of the livelihood program that provides to Finnish families residing in rural areas.
The agriculture minister also said that foreign companies will also be allowed to lease from 50 to 100 years subject to the approval of Philippine laws and regulations.
In the proposed agro-forestry program, a poor family engaged in the agro-forestry program will get 0.04 cents or USD 102 a month if the family achieve a perfect survival rate. Part of the program will also provide hog and chicken raising project for the family-beneficiaries.
The government will identify family-beneficiaries where the agro-forestry program will be implemented and these families will be trained on how to plant high value crops and raise backyard livestocks.
The Philippines is mostly agriculture land but remains to be an importer of agriculture products from China due to obsolete farming technologies of rural farmers.