PH soil 'under threat'
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Wednesday called for urgent action to protect the health of the country's soil, saying it is "under threat" due to the "growing problem of the degradation, acidification, and pollution."
Citing a report from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the President said that 75 percent of total cropland is vulnerable to erosion of various degrees, with agriculture losing about 457 million tons of soil yearly.
The conversion of land for settlements and the loss of about 47,000 hectares of forest cover every year contribute significantly to soil degradation, he said, adding that around 11 million to 13 million hectares are considered degraded.
This is on top of the 2.2 million hectares that suffer from insufficient levels of soil fertility, with improper use of fertilizers and pesticides causing soil pollution and acidity worsening the situation.
"Our soil is under threat and to continue to neglect this vital agricultural component will lead to even worse crisis in the future," Marcos said in his speech during the 1st National Soil Health Summit at the Diamond Hotel in Manila.
To avert the threat posed by soil neglect to national food security and people's livelihood and well-being, the President called for increased collaboration among various stakeholders.
"We in government cannot solve the issues affecting our soil and the agriculture sector as a whole, on our own. As such, this summit is an opportune time for all of us here to collaborate, to share our wisdom and experience to improve our soil and boost our agricultural productivity, all while promoting sustainability and environmental protection," said Marcos, who also sits as the country's Agriculture chief.
"This will play a pivotal role in nation-building and uplifting the lives of our people," the President added.
With the discourse among leaders and the agriculture sector's brightest minds, Marcos said he anticipated the Summit to spark more informed decisions and much-needed innovation.
Through the sharing of information and enhancing programs related to soil health, he said that the country can promote sustainable soil use for the benefit of future generations.
Marcos said his administration has come up with a five-point priority agenda on soil and water management, such as the National Soil Health Program and the Implementation of Sustainable Land Management to ensure proper soil use and management, address land degradation, enhance crop productivity, and improve farmers' income.
"The Administration shall empower the Bureau of Soil and Water Management to achieve these goals, especially through capacitating soil laboratories across the country to yield better data," he said.
"We are conducting a soil and land resources mapping and evaluation process that includes soil-based and land-based level assessments, soil sample analyses and digital map preparations under the Philippine Soil Land Resources Information program," he said.
He said that the government is also exploring water security for climate-resilient rainwater technologies and cloud seeding "to improve water conditions in production areas, in critical watersheds, and in reservoirs."
The Marcos administration has made food security a top agenda.
One of the government's thrusts is consolidating farmers' cooperatives and associations and their lands, as well as the introduction of new technologies and machinery to Filipino farmers, and giving them access to more efficient practices.
The President said they also welcomed major investments in the agriculture industry from local and foreign investors, as part of the plan to provide farmers with the capital and tools they need to boost their productivity.
"We are all aware that our nation is blessed with rich and fertile lands that fed and empowered our people throughout our history. While that has been the case, we will still find ourselves burdened by grave and urgent issues in providing quality and sufficient food for our people — some of which are caused by factors beyond our control, others are within, in fact, our control," Marcos said.
Source: Manila Times