NOVEMBER 4, 2015
Reference: GI ESTRADA, 09166114181
MEDIA OFFICER, UMA
The newly-formed Network Resisting Expansion of Agricultural Plantations in Mindanao or REAP Mindanao Network lauded the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines – Northern Mindanao Region (RMP-NMR) for organizing a People’s Street Conference to expose the ills of oil palm plantations and resist corporate landgrabbing, in front of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), today.
The ‘conference’ was brought to the streets by KMP and RMP-NMR for the public to directly listen to testimonies from affected sectors such as the lumad, the Moro people, peasants, and agricultural workers from Mindanao, Bohol and Palawan, where oil palm plantations in the country are currently located. The activity is part of the national protest caravan, Manilakbayan ng Mindanao.
“With haze reaching the Philippines and other Asian nations from Indonesia, we are now having a preview of disastrous consequences brought about by oil palm plantations. The DENR and other government agencies must listen to the people from Mindanao and other affected islands who are firmly opposed to the expansion of oil palm in the country,” said Ariel Casilao, REAP Mindanao Network spokesperson.
REAP firmly believes that oil palm will push peasants deeper into poverty.
REAP disapproves of the government’s proposal for the “massive conversion” of so-called “idle lands” for oil palm, and pointed out that the history and the aggressive expansion of these plantations especially during the past few years led instead to massive landgrabbing and dislocation of peasant and indigenous peoples’ communities.
Casilao, a labor leader of Anakpawis Partylist from Mindanao, also said that agricultural workers employed in the country’s oldest palm oil plantations in the Caraga region suffer hazardous working conditions and very low wages. Even after 30 years of hard toil, many remain as casual workers, referring to reports from the Pinagbuklod na Lakas ng Manggagawa sa Plantasyon ng Agusan Plantations, Inc. or PIGLAS-MAPAPI, a local affiliate of the national federation Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura or UMA.
According to a 2012 study by the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), poverty, poor working conditions and the high level of unemployment particularly among women have pushed children to work in various capacities as plantation workers – 24 % of plantation workers in Agusan del Sur are children between 5 to 17 years old.
Extrajudicial killings and other rights violations were reported by the KMP in areas such as Opol, Misamis Oriental where the lumad believe that palm oil firm A. Brown is behind the killing of Gilbert Paborada, local leader of the Higaonon tribe, in 2012.
REAP also claimed that crop conversion and the use of toxic chemicals in oil palm plantations resulted not only in the destruction of traditional food sources in communities, but in the massive loss of agricultural areas devoted to food production.
Mindanao, Bohol and Palawan might also emit its own haze soon if the “one million-hectare” government target is allowed. 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.
After the street conference, the REAP Mindanao Network will bring its photo exhibit, “The Other Face of Plunder in Mindanao” for public viewing at the Manilakbayan camp-out or Kampuhan at Liwasang Bonifacio.