The Philippines is proposing to convert 8 million hectares (20 million acres) of ‘idle, denuded and unproductive lands’ for oil palm plantations, reports the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
According to the newspaper, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje announced the target two weeks ago, arguing that the country could make $50 billion or more from the crop.
But environmentalists expressed concern over the idea, suggesting that idle lands should instead be reforested to reduce the incidence of disasters like landslides and floods or used for food crops to better enable the Philippines to feed its population.
The Philippines is presently a very minor producer of palm oil, which is primarily an export-oriented cash crop. Palm oil production represents one of the most profitable forms of agricultural land use in the tropics, but it has been linked to large-scale environmental damage where natural forests have been converted for plantations.