BuCor eyeing hi-tech agri program, inmates as farm workers
MANILA, Philippines—The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) is eyeing to help the country in its food production security through the use of modern farm tools and the persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) as farm workers.
BuCor acting Director General Gregorio Catapang Jr. said the such plan is part of its five-year development roadmap to decongest and modernize prison facilities.
To date, the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) alone, which is one of the seven penitentiaries under BuCor is over 200 percent crowded.
Since last year, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has been releasing sickly, seniors and overstaying inmates to reduce the prison population.
Catapang said part of the development plan is to construct regional prison facilities which will house only 2,500 PDLs per compound.
“We will convert these regional prisons and penal farms into food production centers,” he said.
Catapang said there are many idle lands on penal farms that can be converted or used for agro and acqua-culture sites to help the country attain food security.
“We want to make idle lands as food production centers. I am offering Iwahig penal farm as an example. It has about 20, 000 hectares that can be used as a site for the planting of hybrid rice,’ he said.
He added that they will also equip PDLs with modern farm tools.
“We will do modernized farming hindi yung pagtatanim by hands or mano-mano.’Yung mga PDLs kung maililipat natin sila by regions, they could serve as the new crews of manpower for these farms. Our agri-food production will be hi-tech, with one PDL cultivating as much as 10 to 20 hectares using tractors and other modern farming tools,’ he said.
Catapang said many inmates are getting sick because they are idle and have nothing to do inside their prison cells, adding that many of them welcome such a move for them to work in these sites, though still under armed guard by BuCor personnel.
He said that minimum and medium security inmates will most probably be the ones drafted as farm workers due to security concerns for those convicted of heinous crimes.
Currently, Catapang said only PDLs in Davao are employed as farm workers in the deal between the BuCor and the Tagum Agricultural Development Co. Inc. (Tadeco).
He explained that Tadeco was paying BuCor more or less P25 million to P30 million in a monthly lease for around 500 hectares of land that the company used as a banana plantation, with PDLs as farm workers.
“This is a win-win solution for the country, for BuCor and the PDLs,” he said, adding that inmates working in the Tadeco banana plantation are earning around P500 a week, plus Good Conduct Time Allowance that they can use to apply for pardon or parole.
A total of 18, 625 PDLs are eyed to be transferred until 2028 to the Sablayan Prison and Penal Farm, Leyte Regional Prison in Abuyog, Southern Leyte, Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm in Iwahig, Palawan, Davao Prison and Penal Farm in Davao del Norte, San Ramon Prison and Penal Farm in Zamboanga City.
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