November 20, 2009 – Friday
Every day is a strange combination of events.
Due to the slow progress of backfilling the site ready for construction there is now a danger that the release of irrigation water to neighbouring rice fields for the next crop to be planted will lead to flooding. Had backfilling progressed at a faster rate the height of the land there would have been safely above the standing water level in the rice field so flooding would not have been a concern.
We have an unregistered channel at the front of our land, next to the barangay road that feeds both our lot and the neighbouring rice field. If this fills with water it is likely to overflow and flood the construction site as the current from the dam when the water is released is quite strong.
So when we were called by the lady who holds the old master title to the 10 hectares, including the land which we have purchased, we thought it was to complain about the continued blocking of the channel on our lot. We envisaged having to strike some kind of deal that would allow sufficient time to raise the land, but we also know that rice farmers like to plant together or else come harvest time, if theirs is the last crop to be harvested, it becomes a target for all the insects in the area. So we guessed they wanted the water immediately, not in 2 to 3 weeks time, the timescale for raising the land.
To our surprise she offered a different solution. All the land is owned within one family and the neighbouring lot has apparently been mortgaged to her for three years by one of her nephews. It is however a dead mortgage, meaning at the end of the three years the land simply goes back to the son. In the meantime she is allowed to farm the 7500 sqm lot and sell the rice, approximately 60 kabans (a 50 kilo bag) per crop i.e. 120 per year as there are two crops. She offered for us to take over the mortgage for a payment of 37,500 pesos (approximately £400).
Palay (rice) fetches a minimum price of 500 pesos a kaban but has a street price of around three times that. Take away the cost of paying planters and harvesters plus the cost of hiring a threshing machine and a caribou to move it around the field, and you can see why so many families are giving up farming and selling their land. This at a time when the Philippines is already the largest importer of rice in the world. There would seem to be a strong case for price control to ensure a fair deal for farmers that would keep more rice fields producing.
While we lose on the deal financially we gain the ability to hold back irrigation water and also have a reserve on the lot in case we decide to buy it. Of course, as with our present purchase, it is Gina who would own it in accordance with Philippines law which prohibits foreigners from owning land. We have decided to accept the offer on the neighbouring lot and will also discuss purchasing it at a later date.
Our contractor advised us last night that the parts needed to repair the compactor plus new machinery should arrive today. We hope this will enable them to make more progress while we are waiting for our title to be registered and then the building permit to be applied for.
As we left to visit the site yesterday afternoon we heard chirping, saw a stray chick in our yard, and opened the gate to see the mother hen looking most concerned and calling for her missing offspring. Mother, other siblings and chick were safely reunited.
Update on the neighbouring lot: We have taken over the dead mortgage for a modest sum and thereby secured the construction site. We may farm the rear of the neighbouring lot, however, as the land gently slopes away so water should not enter the site. It will give us access to a further 7,500 sqm for the next two and a half years. Whether Gina will purchase it depends on the price but the owner has agreed not to sell during the mortgage period unless it’s to Gina.