While lumad, peasants seek justice for deaths, agriworkers not amused with BS Aquino “dining options” joke

PR AQUINO JOKE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE OCTOBER 28, 2015
Reference: GI ESTRADA, 0916.6114181

As peasants and the people of Mindanao remember the life and struggle of their dear departed, the “killers” who are currently occupying Malacanang, high government offices and posh military quarters are indulging in opulence.

The entry and expansion of new foreign brands may have made President BS Aquino and his cabinet secretaries “very happy with their current dining options,” but agricultural workers under the national federation Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) are clearly not amused with the President’s tasteless banter.

“While BS Aquino and his cabinet are incredibly giddy with pride for their murderous role in the wholesale sell-out of our country to giant foreign businesses, we must remind them that nearly a thousand people from Mindanao have journeyed to be here in the nation’s capital to seek justice for the victims of killings,” said UMA Secretary General Ranmil Echanis.

“Also, children are dying in evacuation centers and the lumad and peasants who are victims of corporate landgrabbing and hazardous working conditions in plantations are succumbing to hunger and disease,” added Echanis, who said that militarization and plunder are the most pressing issues put forward by the protest caravan Manilakbayan ng Mindanao.

UMA along with church people, and other peasant and workers’ groups established the Network Resisting Expansion of Agricultural Plantations in Mindanao or the REAP Mindanao Network to address various issues linked to the unbridled entry and expansion of plantations controlled by giant multinational agricorporations especially in peasant, lumad and Moro areas.

“The lumad, Moro people and other marginalized groups from Mindanao have traveled far to seek justice, but President BS Aquino and his cabinet can be so insensitive and still have the gall to indulge and jest on their opulent lifestyle, imported designer clothes and high end restaurants. The President gloats that the arrival of well-known foreign brands is among his administration’s achievements on the economic front,” said Echanis.

UMA stressed that President BS Aquino is just being consistent as a trusted lapdog of imperialist powers by ensuring that foreign companies enter the country unimpeded or by lowering tariffs on imported agricultural produce and other products, per neoliberal policies imposed by the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and other unequal trade blocs and agreements entered into by the Philippine government.

This has resulted in the steep drop of the share of agricultural production in the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) from 2011-2014, which fell by almost 50% and has been its lowest in more than two decades. The country also has the lowest agricultural and non-agricultural tariffs in Asia.

Sugar tariffs used to be at 38%, but this year it has gone down to just 5%. This has resulted in yearly importations of more than 400,000 tons per year for the last five (5) years – excluding the large bulk of smuggled sugar entering the country. Mindanao hosts 21.4% of sugar production in the whole country.

The lumad come from the poorest provinces in the Philippines such as Bukidnon, Davao Oriental, and North Cotabato. Of the fifteen (15) poorest provinces in the country, nine (9) are in Mindanao. The spate of killings of the lumad and other activists in Mindanao is perpetrated by regular and paramilitary troops of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to make way for mining concessions and plantation expansion, most of which are foreign-owned.

President Aquino recently made the controversial remark on being elected as the “salesman-in-chief of the Republic of the Philippines” at the 17th Asia Pacific Retailers Convention and Exhibition (APRCE).

“The Filipino people must brace for the most vulgar and disgusting display of this pimping and peddling of the Philippines by BS Aquino at the culmination of the APEC meetings,” said Echanis. UMA will join upcoming people’s protests against imperialist globalization this November.

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To push the campaign to stop expansion of corporate plantations, UMA supports the enactment of House Bill 252 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) filed by Anakpawis Partylist.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP)-Northern Mindanao will lead a People’s Street Conference resisting corporate landgrabbing and oil palm plantations in front of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) office in Quezon City on November 4, Wednesday, 10 am, as part of the Manilakbayan ng Mindanao. 

International Solidarity Messages to the REAP Mindanao Network

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Message to the National Conference on Plantations in Mindanao
October 28, 2015

Dear Friends,

On this critical gathering, the National Conference on Plantations in Mindanao, on October 28, 2015, we convey our warm greetings from the WCC- Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance! We, being part of a global network of over 80 faith-based organisations, of which the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines is a dynamic participating organisation, are in solidarity with you! Our words are on behalf of faith communities, from around the world, committed to promoting adequate nutrition through a rights-based approach and enhancing local food systems.

We are with you in your struggle for greater recognition of the rights and livelihoods of local communities. Peasants, small holders, and indigenous communities are the guardians of the earth, her rich biodiversity, ensuring food sovereignty and promoting ecological harmony.

On the contrary, the large scale commercialisation of land and the grabbing of the vast expanses of land and water resources for commercial monoculture such as Palm Oil plantations, hastens environmental degradation, spreads the loss of habitats, contributes to climate change and brings in food insecurity. These profit oriented expansions dispossess peasants and indigenous communities of their ancestral lands, cultures, history and livelihoods, often violating their fundamental human rights.

We hope and pray that your historic gathering will succeed in establishing a dynamic and sustainable network that will catalyse and synergise the struggles against the expansion of agricultural plantations in Mindanao. The dialogues you initiate, the informed policy debates and advocacy that you can sustain, will go a long way to bringing about the positive transformation of society.

May God accompany you on your courageous and spirit filled pilgrimage for justice and peace! May your actions beckon a new dawn of hope and awakening for Philippines and for the world!

Dr Manoj Kurian MD
Coordinator , WCC- Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance

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No Land, No Life: A united people shall always prevail!

Solidarity message by Ms. Sarojeni Rengam, PANAP Executive Director, for the launching of the REAP Mindanao Network during the National Conference on Mindanao Plantations on 28 October 2015 at the University of the Philippines (UP), Diliman, Quezon City.

PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) warmly applauds the organizers of the National Conference on Mindanao Plantations and the groups behind the formation of the Resisting Expansion of Agricultural Plantations in Mindanao Network or the REAP Mindanao Network. We strongly support your call and campaign to stop land grabbing and to defend human rights in Mindanao.

For over 20 years, PANAP has been closely working with peasants, agricultural workers, indigenous peoples, fisher folk and other small food producers, and rural women’s movements throughout the Asia-Pacific region, including those in the Philippines and Mindanao. It has always been our advocacy to contribute in our own little way in strengthening people’s movements in their assertion of rights to land and livelihood.

Thus, we are elated with the formation of REAP Mindanao Network as a national action network in the Philippines that will further advance the people’s campaign and struggles against the expansion of plantations in Mindanao. Aside from land grabbing, plantations also lead to the widespread and chronic poisoning of rural communities and their environment due to the intensifying use of harmful pesticides and other agrochemicals.

At a time when political repression and human rights abuses against rural communities and activists opposing land and resource grabbing by big corporations and landlords, REAP Mindanao Network is a timely initiative of people’s organizations, affected communities and their supporters. We need to strengthen, consolidate and expand our ranks to defend our human rights, including our rights to land and resources, and our rights to a healthy environment, that massive corporate plantations have been violating with impunity.

We salute the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) in Northern Mindanao, the RMP National Office, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), and other groups behind the REAP Mindanao Network.

PANAP will be with you in defending the people’s collective rights to land and life. In addition, the No Land, No Life! campaign will continue to support the peasants, women and landless people in their struggles for land and resources.

The work and challenges that lie ahead are tremendous and the forces that we face are indeed powerful.

But a united people shall always prevail!

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October 28, 2015

Dear Comrades in REAP,

On behalf of AMRC, we would like to express our strong support and solidarity with the workers and communities in Mindanao in their struggle for dignity, justice, and
democracy. The sacred and precious land of Mindanao belongs to its people who, for thousands of years, have coexisted with nature living a life of simplicity yet of dignity. The island group has provided people enough for their needs and well being. However, in the past few decades, in the name of development, the nexus of state and TNCs, has dispossessed people from their lands, resources and rights, captivating whole island and enslaving people in TNC-led plantations and mines. The original masters of land have become slaves in their own lands, made to work till death and earning pittance. The loot is taken out by the TNCs in the form of profits whereas local communities get nothing as they witness their wealth – mineral resources, forests and water – being plundered beyond repair and bringing them to extreme poverty.

AMRC fully supports the struggle of REAP and its call to respect the democratic rights of the local community to decide for their own future and have full say on how their land, water, and other resources will be used. We support their demand to end the land grabbing and respect the local livelihood practices and cultural sensitivities of the local people. We support the demand for the immediate end to exploitative practices (both for humans and environment) perpetrated by industrial farming and TNC-controlled mining. We support the struggle of the local people in restoring the life and dignity.

Last but not least, the Philippines is experiencing catastrophic environmental impacts and it makes sense to invest in sustainable practices that are embedded in restoration of grassroots democracy and let people who have cared for the environment for centuries to decide for their future.

Padayon!

In solidarity,
Asia Monitor Resource Centre

‘REAP Mindanao Network’ launched to resist expansion of plantations in peasant, lumad and Moro areas

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE OCTOBER 28, 2015
Reference: GI ESTRADA, 0916.6114181
The Network Resisting Expansion of Agricultural Plantations in Mindanao or REAP Mindanao Network was launched today at the University of the Philippines, Diliman in a conference spearheaded by people’s organizations and advocacy groups as part of the protest caravan Manilakbayan ng Mindanao.

The launch was led by the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines’ (RMP) national office and Northern Mindanao chapter, Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), with support from the All UP Workers Alliance, CONTEND-UP and the Hongkong-based group, Asia Monitor Resource Center (AMRC).

More or less 500,000 hectares of land in Mindanao are now covered with plantation crops primarily for the export market. This area is equivalent to 12 percent of Mindanao’s agricultural land. The groups noted that the government is planning to aggressively increase the scope of various agricultural plantations in Mindanao. The people fear that this drive will definitely destroy Mindanao’s food sources and the country’s last remaining frontiers. These areas are located in peasant communities and the ancestral domain of lumad and the Moro people.

REAP Spokesperson Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis Partylist, a labor leader from Southern Mindanao, said that plantation expansion can only be accomplished through the assistance of the military and its so-called investment defense forces which has been tagged as the number one nemesis of the lumad who are defending their lands against mining and plantations.

The government targets for plantation expansion include the following:  256,360 hectares for sugarcane;  150,000 hectares for cacao by 2020; 116,000 hectares for rubber;  87,903 hectares for coffee plantations; and almost one (1) million hectares of oil palm plantations by 2030.

In addition to these, multinational fruit giant Dole Philippines has expressed its intention to expand to at least 12,000 hectares of land for its pineapple plantation; same with Unifrutti, which recently invested P3.7 billion for an expansion of 2,600 hectares of land for banana Cavendish plantations in Moro areas such as Maguindanao.

During the Aquino administration, the unbridled expansion of agricultural plantations has resulted in displacement of numerous lumad and peasant communities as in the case of the A. Brown oil palm venture in Opol, Misamis Oriental.

The state, the military and other security forces, are responsible for violating the rights of the people through continued harassment, vilification and even killings to protect the interests these corporate plantations. Gilbert Paborada, a leader of the Higaonon tribe who strongly opposed to the entry of ABERDI, was killed in 2012. Independent and militant trade unions in Dolefil, Polomolok South Cotabato experienced intense vilification campaign and harassment by the military as part of the previous administration’s counter-insurgency program.

The existence and target expansion of plantations in Mindanao pose serious threats to the environment and health of the people living within and working in the plantations. Use of pesticides and other chemicals have proved to have caused skin and respiratory diseases to workers in oil palm, banana and even pineapple plantations.

Altering the natural landscape (i.e. flattening of mountains) and denudation of natural forests to be replaced to plant agri-plantation crops also proved to have negative impact on soil erosion, biodiversity and sources of water.

The government’s failed agrarian reform program has worked perfectly for the interest of companies as they encouraged agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) to become outgrowers or to lease their lands with onerous contracts. Plantations have also bred many forms of precarious employment victimizing agricultural workers enduring hard labor and exposure to harmful chemicals while being slave like wages.

“Peasants, the Lumad, the Moro people and their supporters have gathered through the REAP Mindanao Network to resist the expansion of plantations. It is a fight for their very survival.”

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No more land in Mindanao even for cemeteries if plantations allowed to expand

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NEWS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE OCTOBER 28, 2015
Reference: GI ESTRADA, 0916.6114181, UMA Media Officer

Days before All Soul’s Day, agricultural workers under the national federation Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) decried that the expansion of giant agricultural plantations in Mindanao have become so aggressive under the Aquino administration there may not be enough land left – “not even for cemeteries to bury the victims of state-sponsored killings, pesticide poisoning, and ecological disasters brought about by the plunder and greed of corporate agribusiness.”

UMA along with the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), and the national office and Northern Mindanao chapter of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), today launched the Network Resisting Expansion of Agricultural Plantations in Mindanano or REAP Mindanao Network at the University of the Philippines, Diliman as part of the protest caravan Manilakbayan ng Mindanao.

Aside from large-scale mining, the groups said that the unbridled expansion of corporate agricultural plantations “is the the other face of plunder” in Mindanao.

“Casualties and fatalities due to mining plunder, plantation expansion and this entire war against the people of Mindanao are piling up,” said Ranmil Echanis, UMA secretary general.

Aside from private security men of these firms, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and bandit paramilitary groups organized by the military are largely blamed for the killings of indigenous peoples or lumad resisting the encroachment of plantation firms in Mindanao. Higaonon tribe leader Gilbert Paborada, who opposed oil palm expansion in Opol, Misamis Oriental, was killed in 2012, while other cases of displacement and human rights violations related to landgrabbing have been reported especially in lumad and Moro areas.

Echanis added that “The haze from Indonesia, which has now severely inconvenienced the Filipino public and has even killed a number of asthma patients in the south, is a preview of what can happen in Mindanao if plantations are allowed to expand. The forest fires are actually caused by the greed of oil palm companies.”

Areas cleared for expansion of plantations in Indonesia include old and unproductive palm trees which are burned to easily revive the oil palm plantations.

In Mindanao, meanwhile, UMA said that plantations controlled by multi-national giants have brought only false promises of development. “It is not a surprise if agricultural workers slaving away for these plantations have also been dying of hunger and disease. They do heavy work while exposed to hazardous pesticides and chemicals, and are only paid with crumbs,” said Echanis.

The continued expansion of plantations controlled by foreign agricorporations in cahoots with local landlords and big business highlights the dismal failure of land reform under this haciendero president BS Aquino” said Echanis.

UMA noted that the Lorenzo family, who are now the newest business partners of the Cojuangco-Aquinos in Hacienda Luisita, is the owner of banana firm Lapanday Development Corporation (LADECO), which is notorious for various atrocities against the people of Mindanao.

UMA supports the enactment of House Bill 252 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) filed by Anakpawis Partylist. UMA will coordinate Manila-based efforts for the REAP Mindanao Network.

Mindanao to emit own ‘haze’ if plantations allowed to expand, agriworkers warn

PR HAZE

Reference: GI ESTRADA, 09166114181
UMA MEDIA OFFICER

#Manilakbayan ‘Salubungan’

Agricultural workers under the national federation Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) joined various sectors in welcoming into country’s capital, the 700-strong delegation of the protest-caravan Manilakbayan ng Mindanao today in Manila.

The Manilakbayan is a nationwide protest against militarization and plunder joined by peasants, workers, the lumad or indigenous peoples, and other sectors from Mindanao. The caravan passed through Eastern Visayas, Bicol and the Southern Tagalog regions before entering Metro Manila yesterday.

In Bacolod City, UMA Acting Chairperson John Milton Lozande echoed the Manilakbayan’s view that the BS Aquino government has been waging war against the people to make way for private and foreign corporate interests, including the unbridled expansion of vast agricultural plantations in Mindanao. Lozande is also secretary general of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) based in Negros Island.

Lozande also warned that if the Aquino government continues its brutal drive to expand corporate agricultural plantations in the island, Mindanao might soon emit its own haze, such as the type caused now by Indonesia. Haze has recently blanketed a number of Southeast Asian countries including the Philippines. Several flights in Cebu have been suspended yesterday due to the haze.

The haze, according to Indonesian authorities, is due to the clearing of land for expansion of plantations. Burning old and unproductive palm trees is reportedly the cheapest means for companies to immediately revive their oil palm plantations.

“In Mindanao, around 60,000 hectares are already planted with oil palm, with the people opposing the plan to expand to another 950,000 up to the year 2030. The Philippine government in tandem with big business is planning to expand another one million hectares of oil palm in the country,” said Lozande.

The other oil palm areas in the country are located in Bohol and Palawan, where more than 11,000 hectares are controlled by plantation firms. Another 100,000 hectares are targeted for oil palm expansion in Palawan alone.

“The people of Mindanao are against expansion of oil palm as well as other export crop plantations like pineapple and cavendish bananas, mostly owned by huge multinational and transnational corporations in cahoots with local landlords and big business. These plantations will definitely destroy the country’s last frontiers, as they have encroached into peasant communities and ancestral lands of the lumad and Moros in Mindanao,” said Lozande.

Lozande also blasted the false promises of development mouthed by the state and the plantation firms: “Landless agricultural workers toiling in these plantations remain dirt poor – exposed to hazardous working conditions, slave-like wages and brutal repression.” Furthermore, plantations endanger whole communities with the adverse health and environmental effects of crop conversion and massive use of agrochemicals.

To tackle issues linked to corporate agricultural plantations, UMA, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), and the national office and Northern Mindanao chapter of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), will spearhead the formation of a national action network resisting the expansion of agricultural plantations in Mindanao.

A National Conference on Mindanao Plantations will be held on October 28, 9:00 am at the UP College of Education Auditorium in Diliman, Quezon City where the formation, to be called REAP Mindanao Network, will be launched as part of activities of the Manilakbayan.

Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) Southern Mindanao labor leader Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis Partylist is among the speakers in the said conference.

Manilakbayan delegates will hold a camp-out or Kampuhan at the University of the Philippines in Diliman until October 31.

Sugar industry still clutched by landlords, importations growing despite new law

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NEWS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 23, 2015
Reference: Gi Estrada, UMA media officer – 09166114181

Agricultural workers under the national federation Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) today said that nothing much has changed since sugar plantations were exempted from land reform during Marcos time, when the late dictator declared his land reform program on the onset of martial law.

“Today the sugar industry is still in the clutches of landlords. This centuries-old set-up is institutionalized by a new law while growing dependent on importations,” said John Milton Lozande, UMA Acting Chairperson

UMA said that,  at the same time, the situation of agricultural workers both in the field and sugar mills is getting worse.

During Marcos’ time, only rice and corn lands were covered by  the bogus land reform law Presidential Decree (PD) 27. When Cory Aquino came into power, all agricultural lands including those planted to sugar cane would supposedly be distributed.

However, majority of so-called agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) under Cory’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) were forced to lease their lands back to financiers and hacienderos. In Negros Occidental, according to Lozande, 80% of ARBs have been forced to lease their lands and were forced to become agricultural workers again.

The new Sugar Industry Development Act (SIDA) of 2015 institutionalized this reconcentration of lands by encouraging the formation of block farms. ARBs would be made to pool their lands together into 30 to 50 hectares of land because the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) says that planting sugar would only be profitable if you have large farms.

This is necessary according to SRA because the country needs to compete with cheaper sugar from Thailand. The lowering of tariffs of imported sugar to just 5% this year is caused by neoliberal policies and imperialist dictates adopted by the government.

“In effect, the P2 billion yearly budget for block farms would be devoured by financiers and hacienderos because most of the lands had already been leased to them by ARBs,” said Lozande.

The country would still import a lot of sugar despite the SIDA. From 2010 – 2014, according to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), the country imported an average of 414,000 tons of sugar and sugar preparations yearly.

Even bioethanol, which the SRA encourages to produce from sugar cane to develop the sugar industry, remain dependent on imports. According to the International Trade Administration of the US government, U.S. ethanol exports to the Philippines have skyrocketed from 12 million liters in 2012 to 256 million liters in 2014. They control 55% of the market.

Based on projections of the OECD and FAO, the Philippines can only attain a production of 294 million liters of ethanol in 2024 but needs to import 442 million liters by that time. From 2012-2014, the country only averaged producing 191 million liters but imported 328 million liters yearly.

“These figures do not include those for smuggled sugar entering Philippine markets through shameless characters like Virgie Torres.  This is allegedly worth P25 billion during the first 5 years of President Aquino’s term,” said Lozande.

However, the situation of the agricultural workers both in the field and mills remain dire. In Negros Occidental where more than 50% of sugar is produced, plantation workers, on the average, receive  measly wages of P500 to P750 a week,  all year round.  On the other hand, most mill workers have become contractual workers.

Lozande stated that “Clearly past land reform laws, starting from Marcos up to the two Aquinos, are all bogus. There should be a genuine agrarian reform law that should be enacted to ensure the true liberation of the farmers from feudal oppression.”

There are agricultural workers and farmers who are already asserting their rights to the lands in Negros and even in Hacienda Luisita through their land cultivation initiative or bungkalan. Agricultural workers continue to assert their right for higher wages and benefits, genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization.

“Agricultural workers will continue to unite, organize and join upcoming people’s protests  against the government’s neoliberal policies,” ended Lozande.

Peasant Day 2015 | Nothing to mark but 43 years of bogus land reform under Marcos and Aquino

PR PEASANT DAY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 21, 2015
Reference: Gi Estrada, UMA media officer – 09166114181

Forty-three years after the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos enacted land reform through Presidential Decree 27 (PD 27), agricultural workers under the national federation Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) today said that there is nothing to celebrate but four decades of landlessness, hunger and repression.

“Marcos had the empty PD 27 which sought to justify and deodorize Martial Law, while the Cojuangco-Aquinos will now be remembered as the haciendero clan whose brainchild, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) led to the wholesale massacre of social justice,” said John Milton Lozande, UMA Acting Chairperson

Lozande was also referring to the actual massacre of peasants in Mendiola under President Corazon Aquino, and to the unsolved killings in the Cojuangco-Aquino sugar estate, Hacienda Luisita.

Lozande added that the “The CARP was a spineless, stillborn law which they are now still trying to resurrect even after its much-awaited demise.” The CARP which was enacted by the elder Aquino in 1988 finally expired after several failed extension programs (CARPER) on June 30, 2014, under the current BS Aquino III administration.

UMA lamented that electoral platforms for the welfare and interests of workers and peasants are basically left out of public discussion, as traditional politicians, the landed and the moneyed elite, lead the election circus towards 2016.

“The Marcoses and the Aquinos – and their spoiled-brat scions – are now trying to outdo each other in propelling lies regarding their purported ‘legacy’ to the Filipino people.”

“One look at the current situation of farmworkers in sugar haciendas and vast agricultural plantations will tell the public precisely what both ruling clans have accomplished in their years in power.”

Lozande, who is also secretary-general of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) based in Negros Island said that “Chronic hunger, reminiscent of the infamous Negros famine crisis caused by Marcos cronyism three decades ago, is still felt by thousands of farmworkers especially during tiempo muerto or dead season, when work in sugarcane haciendas temporarily grinds to a halt.”

“Hacienda Luisita, meanwhile, is now the playground of Aquino crony Virginia Torres. With fake land distribution and impunity, justice remains elusive to the victims of human rights violations in Luisita,” said Lozande.

“The country’s aspiring leaders must sincerely address the problem of land reform. Otherwise, the public will continue to see these politicians as foolish clowns peddling sugar-coated promises to the masses. Without genuine land reform, peasants and agricultural workers expect nothing but the perpetuation of landlessness, hunger, and fascist repression in the countryside.”

“Marcos allowed for the unbridled entry of foreign corporate giants now lording over the agrichemical farm input industry and vast agricultural plantations in the country, while Aquino’s non-land transfer schemes further institutionalized this mockery of land reform and our national patrimony,” said Lozande.

In Mindanao, giant transnational and multinational firms practically dictate land use over more than 700,000 hectares of land devoted to plantations of export crops and raw materials for foreign-owned enterprises. UMA says that militarization, killings and repression in the workplace and in peasant and indigenous peoples or lumad communities are part of neoliberal dictates of foreign imperialist powers.

To tackle the issue of corporate agricultural plantations, UMA, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), and the national office and Northern Mindanao chapter of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), will spearhead the formation of a national action network resisting the expansion of agricultural plantations in Mindanao.

A National Conference on Mindanao Plantations will be held on October 28, 9:00 am at the UP College of Education Auditorium in Diliman, Quezon City.

The network, to be called REAP Mindanao Network, will be launched during the conference, which is part of activities of the island-wide protest caravan Manilakbayan ng Mindanao 2015.

Banana capitalists’ case vs. toxicologist ‘ruthlessness’ – KMU

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Dr. Romeo Quijano speaking at a 2006 conference on chemical safety in Hungary.

NEWS

Press Statement
18 October 2015

We condemn big foreign capitalists in the banana industry for reviving a dead case against top toxicologist Dr. Romeo Quijano, a retired professor at the University of the Philippines-Manila’s Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology.

The case of “unprofessionalism,” which was reportedly filed by six residents of Hagonoy, Davao del Sur before the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC), only revives a case that was filed by big capitalists in the banana industry against Quijano on the basis of an article written 16 years ago.

The case before the PRC uses accusations contained in falsification and libel cases filed by Lapanday Development Corp. (Ladeco) that were dismissed by the Department of Justice on November 2013. It appears that the Hagonoy residents were coerced by Ladeco into reviving the case.

The case’s revival shows the ruthlessness of big capitalists in the banana industry towards those who dare speak up against the negative effects of pesticides on agricultural workers, communities and the environment. These big capitalists want to stifle and demonize scholarly and scientific research in order to advance their selfish drive for bigger profits.

Big capitalists in the banana industry clearly want to continue their harmful practice of aerially spraying pesticides and to further expand across Mindanao to the detriment of workers, communities and the environment.

The ongoing refusal of Sumifru, a subsidiary of multinational company Sumitomo Corp., to negotiate with workers of AJMR Sumifru Port Corporation for a Collective Bargaining Agreement highlights how big capitalists in the banana industry are violating workers’ rights. Sumitomo Corp. is a supplier of 30 percent of Japan’s banana consumption and exports bananas to China, New Zealand and the Middle East.

We stand by Dr. Quijano and all advocates of workers’ occupational health and safety, of the health and safety of communities, and of the protection of the environment. We vow to continue to protest against those who harass Dr. Quijano and who spread poison that victimize workers, farmers and the environment.

Reference: Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson, 0908-1636597

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Dr. Romeo Quijano, president of the Pesticide Action Network-Philippines, will speak on Neoliberalism and Corporate Agricultural Plantations during the National Conference on Mindanao Plantations on October 28, 9:00 am at the UP College of Education Auditorium in Diliman, Quezon City.

UMA, KMP, the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), and the national office and Northern Mindanao chapter of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), will spearhead the formation of a national action network resisting the expansion of agricultural plantations in Mindanao.

The formation to be called REAP Mindanao Network will be launched the conference, which is part of activities of the island-wide protest caravan Manilakbayan ng Mindanao 2015.  

 

On World Food Day: Farmers and food producers are the most hungry

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NEWS
OCTOBER 17, 2015
ASIAN PEASANT COALITION 

Governments in Asia not serious in ending hunger

“As the world celebrates the “World Food Day” yesterday, the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) marks 16 October as World Hunger Day and exposed the real situation that farmers, fisherfolks and other small food producers in Asia are the most food-insecure and hungry people. Worse, landless farmers are increasing and remain impoverish elsewhere in poor countries,” remarked Rahmat Ajiguna, APC secretary general.

As a result of neoliberal policies, landlessness and violation of peasant rights are intensifying. In the Philippines, according to the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Peasant Movement of the Philippines-KMP), 9 out of 10 Filipino farmers remain landless and do not own the lands they till. Landlessness has worsened in the past years as a result of massive land grabbing, land use conversion and Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects promoted by the Aquino government and private investors.

Meanwhile, Nasrin Sultana, APC Coordinating Council member said, “Out of Bangladesh’s more than 160 million inhabitants, close to 4.5 million are completely landless, mostly in rural areas, according to a 2008 Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics survey. In reality however, the number of landless people is higher than government statistics. In 2008, 13% of rural households were landless and this is increasing (it was only 9% in 1983-84).”

“Unfortunately, 60% of the world’s hungry are women and 300 million children go hungry every day. Every 10 seconds, a child dies from hunger while around 9 million people die of hunger and hunger-related diseases every year,” added Sultana, also the President of the National Women Farmers and Workers Association (JKSS)

FAO’s theme for World Food Day is “Social Protection and Agriculture.” It says that,Social protection systems have become an important tool in the fight against hunger. More than 100 countries implement conditional or unconditional cash transfer programmes that focus on promoting food security and nutrition, health and education, particularly for children.” ILO estimates that 70 percent of the world’s poor still do not have access to adequate social protection.

“In Bangladesh, the conditional cash transfer (CCT) covers secondary education (Bangladesh’s Female Secondary School Assistance Program or FSSAP) while Indonesia covers primary and secondary education (Indonesia’s Jaring Pengamanan Sosial or JPS). In the Philippines, despite spending P245-billion for CCT since 2008, poverty is undeniably increasing. According to Ibon Foundation’s poverty survey, 7 out of 10 respondents considered themselves as poor. This is consistent with the estimate that some 66 million Filipinos are living with a P125 (US $ 2.7) daily income or even less,” remarked Rahmat Ajiguna, APC secretary general based in Indonesia.

“Despite the proliferation of such CCT programs around the world, poverty is ever growing. The CCT in the Philippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and other parts of the world is actually a dole-out program that merely exacerbates each country’s debt — after all, the program is partially funded through loans from the World Bank (WB) and Asian Development Bank (ADB),” added Rahmat also the secretary general of the Aliansi Gerakan Reforma Agraria (AGRA).

“Governments in Asia, in partnership with multilateral institutions and corporations are really not serious in ending hunger.  They are actually aggressively promoting large-scale foreign and domestic investments in agriculture tied to neo-liberal policies. Governments in Asia are marketing Public Private Partnership (PPP) scheme, where both domestic and foreign investors will be given legal authority to make it easy for them to further intensify land grabbing, to multiply plunder of available resources and step-up corporate takeovers of other vital sections of the economy,” stated Rafael Mariano, KMP national chairperson.

“In the Philippines, the Aquino government’s Clark Green City project that covers 36,000 hectares of productive and abundant agricultural lands will displace some 20,000 Aeta and farmer families in the towns of Capas, Bamban, Angeles City, and Mabalacat. The Central Luzon Link Expressway (CLEX) would convert prime agricultural lands and home lots of about 319.5 hectares in Central Luzon, the country’s rice-granary. The CLEX will affect almost 400 farmers and 10,000 agricultural workers. In Andra Pradesh, India, the government will grab 12,000 hectares of prime agricultural lands in the name of new capital City that will displace at least 100,000 peasants,” added Mariano, also the Chairperson of APC.

“Millions of hectares of land have been grabbed and handed over to either foreign or domestic investors. By altering land laws to favour the interests of investors, national governments have accelerated land grabbing. In Manipur, Northeast India, the Mapithel Dam project if completed will submerge 1,215 hectares of land in Senapati and Ukhrul district. The lands belong to people from Tangkhul and Kuki tribes,” ended Mariano.

The APC organized coordinated actions yesterday in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia and the Philippines stating that “to end hunger, advancing the struggle for genuine agrarian reform and building anti-imperialist movement is necessary.” #

Reference:

Rafael V. Mariano (Philippines)
APC Chairperson and KMP National Chairperson
Mobile no.:+639-982898052

Rahmat Ajiguna (Indonesia)
APC Secretary General and AGRA Secretary General
Mobile no.: +62 82110857684

Nasrin Sultana (Bangladesh)
APC CC member and JKSS President
E-mail: bpsatsbd@gmail.com
Phone: +8801718 713906

Agriworkers support wharf workers protest vs Sumifru in Mindanao

PR SUMIFRU WHARF

The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), a national federation of agricultural workers, today expressed its support to the ongoing picket of port workers in Tibungco, Davao City against Japanese fruit giant SUMIFRU (Philippines) Corporation.

The port workers, who are employed in SUMIFRU’s cold storage unit are members of the AJMR Labor Union (AJMRLU), which has recently disassociated with a yellow union and now affiliated with the militant Association of Democratic Labor Organizations – Kilusang Mayo Uno (ADLO-KMU).

“We support the workers’ demand for the SUMIFRU management to immediately begin collective bargaining (CBA) with AJMRLU-ADLO-KMU,” said John Milton Lozande, UMA acting chairperson.

According to AJMRLU President Rene Diamora, it has been more than forty days since their union submitted their CBA proposal. Under the law, the employer is supposed to submit its counterproposal within ten (10) days but the SUMIFRU management has so far failed in taking appropriate action.

“AJMRLU’s recent affiliation with the militant ADLO-KMU should not be made an excuse for stalling negotiations. Management should not meddle or pressure the union with regards its crucial organizational decisions. It is the union’s right to associate and choose which federation or labor center truly represents the interests of the workers,” added Lozande.

Earlier this year, SUMIFRU, which controls vast banana plantations and several processing facilities in Davao provinces and Compostela Valley, met intense protests from agricultural workers when it implemented the pakyaw or piece rate wage scheme in its plantations and packaging plants.  Workers under the alliance Banana Industry Growers and Workers Against Sumifru (BIGWAS) and unions affiliated with KMU in the Southern Mindanao Region (KMU-SMR) staged successful protests against this unilateral scheme which attempted to reduce workers’ wages by at least half.

SUMIFRU, which prides itself for its so-called “social responsibility and accountability” has been embroiled in its 12th labor dispute with more than 7,600 workers in its different branches in Regions 11 and 12 this year. This is 42% of the 18,100 total employees it has including managerial, supervisory, and technical staff.

Aside from the present labor dispute, SUMIFRU still has five (5) other pending labor cases involving 6,300 workers.  On the other hand, the biggest pending cases are those in its Tboli Operations. These include violation/non-implementation of CBA; violation of existing company practices; contracting out-services normally performed; unfair labor practices; illegal transfer/demotion; bargaining deadlock and others.

“In the current case of the Davao port wokers, SUMIFRU is violating the union’s right to organize and collectively bargain under the ILO Conventions 87 and 98,” said Lozande.

“Multinational fruit giants like SUMIFRU practice trade union repression and trample upon the workers’ rights with ease due to neoliberal dictates and government policy practically allowing the unbridled expansion of these corporate agricultural plantations,” said Lozande.

To highlight the impact of these corporate plantations, UMA, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the national office and the Northern Mindanao chapter of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), and the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) will spearhead the formation of a national action network resisting the expansion of agricultural plantations in Mindanao.

KMU-SMR labor leader Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis will be one of the main speakers in the National Conference on Mindanao Plantations to be held on October 28, 9:00 am at the UP College of Education Auditorium in Diliman, Quezon City. The network, to be called REAP Mindanao Network will be launched during the conference. A press briefing will follow.

Other representatives of affected lumad, peasant and working class communities in Mindanao will provide testimonials on the impact of corporate agricultural plantations in the island.

The conference, which is part of activities of the island-wide protest caravan Manilakbayan ng Mindanao 2015, is open to the public.