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84,000 has. of agri lands in Davao to revert to forestland

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Some 84,000 hectares of agricultural land in Davao City will be reverted to forestland once the amended Comprehensive Land Use Plan takes effect, an official said.

In an interview at the sidelines of I-Speak Media Conference on Thursday, Ivan Cortez, head of the City Planning and Development Office, said these lands were classified in the land use ordinances of 1983 and 1996 as agricultural zone despite being unfit for agricultural purposes due to undulating terrain situated at more than 18% slope.

“What happened before was that these areas were classified as agricultural areas without consideration of slope terrain,” he said.

He said reversion of these areas – particularly portions of Calinan, Marilog, and Paquibato Districts – would bring the total forestland of this city to 111,000 hectares from 27,000 hectares.

He added that forestlands are classified as either protected forest or production forest.

All forms of activities are prohibited in protected forest areas, except for reforestation or other efforts intended for “preservation of environment and biodiversity,” while limited productive activities may be allowed in production forest areas such as ecotourism and even cultivation of fruit-bearing trees, he explained.

“Production forest, most of these areas, used to be part of the agricultural zone. We still allow productive activities in production forests like planting of fruit-bearing trees and ecotourism activities in those areas, but for forest protection, the only allowed activities is reforestation along those lines,” he said.

He said the local government would allow owners to develop only 5% of their total land area within the productive forest zone for ecotourism purposes, and the rest should be preserved.

He said business owners are required to strictly comply with regulations.He said business owners who will develop beyond the 5% limitation would be required to carry out reforestation activities.

The official said the trees to be planted by them will be reevaluated after three years, warning them that the local government will cancel their business permits if seedlings do not survive.

He said this is aligned with the local government’s aim for sustainable development.

He said the local government would demolish existing infrastructures encroaching on protected forest areas but the owners will be given time to take down their structures and transfer.

“Those businesses that have encroached within the protection forest, we will provide them a phaseout period to transfer. By that certain period, they should be able to transfer because we do not want them to remain there,” he said.

He said owners will also be asked to undertake tree planting in areas that need re-greening activities.

By: Antonio L. Colina IV, MindaNews 

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