June 24, 2024

The Benguet State University has clarified the coming in of a Korean lessee at the Strawberry Field is not yet a done deal.

BSU President Felipe Comila said the proposal of Agro-Solution Korea Co., Ltd. to lease 3.2 hectares of the Strawberry Farm is still being evaluated by university officials.

The Korean firm proposed to build 30 units of greenhouses where it would produce strawberry and cherry tomatoes using la-test technology.

Comila said the interested lessee is made up of a consortium of Korean businesses and backed by the Korean government under the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).

Earlier, some farmers currently leasing at the Strawberry Field, have asked BSU not to allow the project as it will displace 56 farmers presently tilling the leased BSU farm.

In a letter to Comila, farmer cooperators at the Strawberry Field led by Peter Bulangen, said the supposed consultation of the Korean representatives of the firm on May 19 “turned out to be an information dissemination” instead.

“(The Korean representatives informed us) that the 3.5 hectares of the area was about to be turned over to these Korean national contractors. We are not against any improvement and we would also want to learn their way of farming but not compromising our fellow farmers who will be directly affected,” Bulangen stated.

Comila said BSU received an initial general proposal from the Korean proponent but the final detailed proposal is still pending.

The Korean proponent proposed to rent  the area at P40 per square meter per year. At present, the farmers are renting the farm for P15 per square meter per year from BSU. 

Comila said he gave a go-signal to the Korean representatives to conduct their own due diligence and to consult with the affected farmers and the local government units of La Trinidad and Benguet province.

He revealed the KOICA-backed proposed project, “The sixth industrial smart agriculture valley establishment for young farmers to steer Philippine agriculture,” was initially denied by BSU in July 2021.

The proposal was denied primarily due to the consideration of the social obligation of BSU, especially to the farmers leasing at the area.

This year, the same proponent submitted anew the same proposal, now with the endorsement coming from the Department of Agriculture, which strongly suggested the proposed project since it is a technology-transfer that might help the local farmers and BSU as well.

Comila said he has informed the Korean proponent, represented by Sanghun Lee, of the situation of the farmers and the interventions done by various officials on behalf of the farmers.  

He said the Korean proponents would need to talk to the municipal and provincial boards, as the local government units have a 2017 resolution asking the BSU to maintain the Strawberry Farm as a “non-buildable zone” to maintain it as an agricultural area.

This is because the proposal includes establishment of a coffee shop and souvenir area near the planned greenhouses.

Once BSU received the final detailed proposal of the Korean proponent, it would be deliberated at the administrative council of the university, then it would be forwarded to the Board of Regents (BOR).

He said they have also asked the farmers affected to give their counter-offer for the BSU to forward it to the BOR, who would have the final say on the matter. – Ofelia C. Empian