In the Philippines, massive oil palm monocultures are tearing apart indigenous peoples’ livelihood while plundering ecological valuable areas and precious biodiversity.
As of June 2009, the total area devoted to oil palm in the country had already reached 46,608 hectares, covering the islands of Mindanao, Bohol and Palawan. Currently, in Northern Mindanao alone, 20,000 hectares of agricultural land are being targeted for conversion into oil palms, and another 20,000 hectares have been set aside for the same purpose in Palawan (a UNESCO Man & Biosphere Reserve).
Members of the local indigenous communities claim that new pests have spread from neighbouring oil palm plantations to their farmlands, destroying thousands of coconut palms and other food-crops. Working conditions in oil palm plantations are exploitative and child labour is rampant. Overall, the self-sufficiency and cultural integrity of entire communities is now being jeopardized. See video:
In Mindanao (Misamis Oriental), human rights violations include strafing, illegal arrest and holding farmers at gunpoint while personnel of the oil palm firm A. Brown Company, Inc destroyed their crops. On October 2012, the escalation of violence towards the opponents of oil palm projects has led to the extra-judicial killing of Gilbert Paborada, an indigenous Higaonon activist and member of the organization "Pangalasag". Of particular concern is the encroachment of oil palm plantations on Higaonon ancestral land in in barangay Hagpa and barangay Kalubgao in the Municipality of Impasug-ong, Province of Bukidnon.
Please tell the Philippines Government to urgently stop oil palm expansion nationwide and to seriously safeguard indigenous peoples’ rights.
His Excellency Benigno Aquino III
President, Republic of the Philippines
The Governor of Bukidnon
The Mayor of Impasug-ong
The Governor of Misamis Oriental
The Mayor of Opol
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights (CHR)
Chairperson, The National Commission on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (NCIP)
Chairperson, The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA)
Secretary, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)
Secretary, The Department of Agriculture (DA)
I am deeply concerned about the escalation and highly adverse impact of oil palm development nationwide, with particular references to the provinces of Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon and Palawan.
I have read disconcerting reports and received information from reliable sources about the massive violation of labour standards and incidence of child labour in oil palm plantations. I understand that, according to the Philippine Oil Palm Development Plan, only ‘idle’ and ‘underdeveloped’ land should be converted into oil palm plantations. However, local indigenous people claim that oil palm expansion is bringing havoc to their lives by destroying their farmlands, hunting grounds and non-timber forest products, polluting their water sources and thus impoverishing them to an unprecedented level.
I am also disturbed by the recent escalation of violence towards the opponents of oil palm plantations. This has led, on October 3, 2012, to the extra-judicial killing of Gilbert Paborada, an indigenous Higaonon who had led the local struggle against the A. Brown oil palm company in Misamis Oriental. Also in Bukidnon, oil palm development is moving closer and closer to the ancestral land of different Higaonon groups who are members of the organization: “Agtulawon Mintapod Higaonon Cumadon” (AGMIHICU)
In spite of innovative national legislation on environmental protection (NIPAS) and indigenous peoples’ rights (R.A. 8371), oil palm plantations continue to expand due to the collusion and corrupt practices of Government officials, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples. Environmental Compliance Certificates (ECCs) to oil palm firms are given too easily and without the free, prior, and informed consent of the impacted communities.
I then urge your office and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to investigate and bring to an end the ongoing human rights violations, land grabbing and harassment of indigenous Lumads by A. Brown Company, Inc., which operates a palm oil plantation in Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon. In both Palawan and Mindanao, land from which farmers and indigenous people have been dispossessed should be returned to them.
I also urge the national government to revitalize the proposed ‘National Land Use and Management Act’ in order to foster critical discussions on the implications of existing policies regulating industrial monocultures on biodiversity, rural livelihood and indigenous rights.
a nation-wide moratorium on oil palm development until the country is assured that it has all the resources and capacities to attain food security and to promote equitable progress and inclusive growth in rural areas.