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.