Press Release
December 5, 2017

Legarda Calls for Stricter Sustainable Land Management Practices to Address Degradation

On World Soil Day, December 5, Senator Loren Legarda called on authorities to enforce sustainable land management practices to combat land degradation, which affects one-third of the world's land.

This year's World Soil Day has a theme, "Caring for the Planet starts from the Ground," which aims to elevate awareness on the importance of sustaining healthy ecosystems and human well-being by addressing the increasing challenges in soil management; and to raise the profile of healthy soil by encouraging governments, organizations, communities and individuals around the world to engage in proactively improving soil health.

"Soil is a finite, non-renewable natural resource. We depend so much on our lands for food and other resources, but we are not doing our best to prevent them from being degraded due to non-sustainable practices," Legarda said.

Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committees on Climate Change and Finance, said that it is especially important for the Philippines, an agricultural country, to be taking care of its land. Land degradation in the country has already affected more than 33 million Filipinos and is likely to contribute to widespread and severe poverty in rural areas.

According to the Department of Agriculture (DA), about 45% of the arable land in the Philippines have been moderately to severely eroded, which triggered the movement of subsistence farmers to marginal lands in order to meet food requirements. Approximately 5.2 million hectares have been severely eroded and 8.5 million hectares have moderately eroded resulting in a 30-50% reduction in soil productivity and water retention capacity.

"Our country boasts of rich natural resources and is home to ecosystems and habitats that nurture biologically diverse plants and animals. Further degradation to our lands will undermine our balance with nature, which will drastically affect our food security and other livelihoods of our communities," Legarda said.

Legarda said that the most common type of land degradation in the Philippines is soil erosion, which makes the land less suitable to crop production, or in some cases, total loss of soil productivity. Soil mining, which causes nutrient imbalances and contributes to soil degradation, is also one widespread practice in the country that stagnates rice and corn yields because of excessive use of nitrogen fertilizer.

Moreover, she cited factors, such as rapid urbanization, increasing population, prolonged and frequent occurrence of droughts because of climate change, and the absence or poor implementation of environmental policies, that contribute to land degradation.

In order to address this, Legarda authored Senate Bill No. 422 or "An Act Promoting Soil and Water Conservation Technologies and Approaches for Sustainable Land Management in the Philippines," which seeks to support Sustainable Land Management (SLM) programs for livelihood improvement, particularly that of upland farmers and indigenous peoples, and for the prevention of land degradation. Said measure also includes establishment of a national soil and water conservation programme; the creation of model farms that will showcase water and soil conservation; and the construction of small-scale rainwater harvesting structures.

Legarda said that the bill intends to establish 1,000 Soil and Water Conservation Guided Farms to showcase sustainable land management best practices, such as sloping agricultural land technology, organic-based agriculture, farm waste and residue management, wastewater recycling and re-use, and rainwater harvesting, as well as to establish 10,000 units of small-scale rainwater harvesting systems consisting of rainwater reservoir development, watershed management, and service area development in strategic upland areas throughout the country.

She emphasized that the measure also aims to capacitate and empower local government units and farmers' associations in the use and maintenance of soil and water conservation model farms and rainwater harvesting systems.

"It is high time that we change the consumerist mentality that we are entitled to an infinite amount of resources from our lands and our environment. We are only mere caretakers of the lands that have been providing for us for so long. Protecting and preserving our environment now means that we secure the resources for our future generations," Legarda concluded.

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