#COP21 “greenwashing” | BS Aquino’s renewable energy pledge premised on landgrabbing


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 14, 2015
Reference: Gi Estrada, UMA Media Officer, 0916.611.4181
Email: uma.pilipinas@gmail.com
Follow @UMApilipinas on Twitter 

While the Philippine position at the recently concluded COP21 Climate Talks invariably mentions “equality” and “human rights” as key principles supposedly reflected in the final Paris agreement, it must also be said that landgrabbing and unceasing peasant oppression are actually among BS Aquino’s key strategies in “promoting renewable energy” in the country.

The national agriworkers federation Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) scored Aquino for “greenwashing” the Presidential family’s long-standing human rights atrocities in Hacienda Luisita through the Tarlac Solar Power Project (TSPP), a public-private partnership (PPP) project opposed by farmworker-beneficiaries in the controversial sugar estate.

Farmworkers under the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang-Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) today trooped to the Tarlac City Hall and the local offices of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to stop the TSPP, which is now reportedly under construction within disputed agricultural areas claimed by Cojuangco-Aquino firms TADECO and LRC, and commercial bank RCBC.

The Yuchengco-owned RCBC is a sister company of PetroGreen and PetroSolar, firms tasked by the Department of Energy (DoE) to implement the TSPP.  The involvement of a German company, Conergy, in the TSPP is also criticized by UMA as an indication of BS Aquino’s wild yearning for “climate profits” at the expense of Luisita farmers.

AMBALA’s earlier pickets against the TSPP in Barangay Balete, Hacienda Luisita were met with the deployment of war tanks and truckloads full of state troopers and policemen, according to reports received by UMA during the past few weeks.

“Landgrabbing and militarization for an anomalous solar project in his own Luisita backyard are clear manifestations of how this hypocrite haciendero president BS Aquino ‘respects, promotes and considers human rights obligations in addressing climate change,’” said UMA Secretary General Ranmil Echanis, in reference to the Paris agreement.

AMBALA will hold a three-day camp-out in Tarlac City to demand the revocation of the DAR conversion order for the 500-hectare agricultural area where the TSPP is planned to be set up. AMBALA has a pending petition to revoke the conversion order granted by DAR to the Hacienda Luisita Inc (HLI) way back in 1996.  HLI and its successors-in-interest RCBC, LRC and the Luisita Industrial Park Co. (LIPCO), failed to comply with the conditions of the conversion order, which states that the area must undergo development and land use conversion within five years after the order was issued.

“After depriving farmers of this large chunk of Luisita land for almost two decades, BS Aquino is now using climate issues to ‘greenwash’ his shameless and brazen landgrabbing maneuvers,” said UMA.

AMBALA also slammed the DAR for its useless Notice of Land Reform Coverage (NOC) issued to TADECO for the 258-hectare agricultural area in Barangay Balete, where TSPP electrical posts are now being erected. AMBALA also demands the pull-out of all military troops in Hacienda Luisita, especially the headquarters of the 31st company of the 3rd Mechanized Battalion located right smack in this disputed TADECO area. Farmers cultivating this area were evicted in several violent incidents from 2013 to 2014.

The DoE and the Aquino government also plan to set up solar power plants and green energy projects in other disputed land reform areas and frontiers like the controversial Clark Green City, and other areas in Tarlac. In Victorias City, Negros Occidental, farm workers under UMA’s local affiliate, the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), are also contesting a solar power plant project to be set up by a French firm. Like Luisita, Negros island is considered a bastion of feudal landlords or hacienderos.

“BS Aquino is the last person to champion climate justice, or any other endeavor which embodies the principles of truth, justice and fairness. This haciendero president can only represent imperialist plunder, exploitation, and oppression along with the rest of those cold, uncaring world leaders who have pledged to mitigate climate change effects only through empty COP21 bravado.”


BS Aquino deploys tanks vs farmers to protect PPP in Luisita


Reference: Gi Estrada, UMA Media Officer, 0916.611.4181
Email: uma.pilipinas@gmail.com
Follow @UMApilipinas on Twitter 

The last time armored personnel carriers (APCs) or war tanks were deployed in Hacienda Luisita, at least seven protesters were killed and more than a hundred were left wounded.

Yesterday, December 6, around 4 in the afternoon, farmworkers reported that two APCs and two truckloads full of soldiers in full battle gear entered Barangay Balete in Hacienda Luisita, apparently deployed to provide security to PetroSolar, the firm tasked by government to implement the Tarlac Solar Power project (TSPP), a public-private partnership project opposed by Hacienda Luisita farmers.

Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) Secretary General Ranmil Echanis said that: “We condemn President BS Aquino for allowing renewed militarization and harassment of farmers in Hacienda Luisita. Why did Aquino, as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, allow heavy troop deployment just to protect this controversial project?”

“Is Aquino openly declaring war against Luisita farmers? The troops and war tanks must immediately be pulled-out of the area before another massacre ensues,” said Echanis.

The last time such personnel and equipment were deployed in Hacienda Luisita these were used to disperse the historic People’s Strike 11 years ago, which resulted in a massacre on November 16, 2004. During that time it was the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) which authorized the deployment of soldiers in the Hacienda.

“Top officials and alter-egos of BS Aquino in other government agencies found responsible for such troop deployment like the Department of Energy (DoE), which implements the PPP projects along with PetroSolar, or the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), which holds jurisdiction over these disputed agricultural areas, must be equally liable for this atrocious move to silence the community and preempt any kind of protest against this new landgrabbing modus,” said UMA.

UMA added that state troopers and military logistics can easily be deployed in and out of Hacienda Luisita because of its proximity to the AFP Northern Luzon (NOLCOM) Command Headquarters, right across the McArthur Highway entrance of Hacienda Luisita in San Miguel, Tarlac City; and the Training and Doctrine Command HQ of the Philippine Army (PA) in Camp O’ Donnell next town, in Capas, Tarlac.

Deployment of soldiers in the disputed agricultural area where the PPP project is to be constructed started on November 26, according to the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang-Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA), UMA’s local affiliate in Tarlac. More than a thousand farmers and residents signed a petition to stop the TSPP which AMBALA already submitted to the DAR and local government units a few months back.

The area in which the electrical posts would be set up was issued a Notice of Coverage (NOC) by DAR in 2013. Farmers decried that the NOC was practically useless as this did not prevent the Cojuangco-Aquino firm TADECO from using local police, private security guards and goons to violently eject farm worker beneficiaries (FWBs) who have been tilling the lands since 2005. A company headquarters of the 31st Infantry Battalion PA, 3rd Mechanized Battalion is located right smack in this disputed agricultural area in Balete.

The actual solar power plant, meanwhile, is planned to be constructed in a 500-hectare area claimed by RCBC in Barangay Lourdes (Texas) and Balete, where the gate of the idle Luisita Industrial Park 2 (LIP2) Complex is located. AMBALA through its counsels from the Sentro para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (SENTRA), still has a pending petition to revoke the DAR conversion order issued way back in 1996. RCBC, the LIP Corporation and the Cojuangco-Aquino firm Luisita Realty Corporation failed to abide by the terms of the conversion order as the area remained idle and fit for agricultural use nearly two decades after the DAR issued the said order.

Barbed wires and concrete barriers have also been set-up in front of the LIP2 gate. Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap has earlier called for the cancellation of this controversial PPP project in Hacienda Luisita.

“The TSPP is the latest in the list of BS Aquino’s atrocities against Hacienda Luisita farmers under his term. The Supreme Court already ruled for total land distribution in 2012, but Aquino is clearly doing everything in his power – from brute force to hiding behind a supposed “environment-friendly” project to undermine the farmers’ legitimate demands for land and justice,” said UMA.

#COP21 | Aquino solar project grabs Luisita land for ‘climate profits’


Reference: Gi Estrada, UMA Media Officer, 0916.611.4181
Email: uma.pilipinas@gmail.com
Follow @UMApilipinas on Twitter  

While Philippine President BS Aquino is rubbing elbows with other hypocritical world leaders who are similarly posturing to mitigate effects of climate change at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP 21) Climate Talks in Paris, France – trouble over a purported ‘environment-friendly’ government project is brewing in his own backyard, Hacienda Luisita.

The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), a national federation of agricultural workers, slammed Aquino for renewed state violence and militarization in Hacienda Luisita, particularly in barangays Balete, Lourdes (Texas) and Central where the Tarlac Solar Power Project (TSPP), a public-private partnership (PPP) deal sanctioned by BS Aquino between the Department of Energy and PetroSolar, is now reportedly under construction.

The Hacienda Luisita sugar estate is the site of a massacre of farmworkers in 2004. At least seven protesters were killed and a hundred others were wounded when military and police opened fire at thousands of sugar workers manning a picket line. In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled to revoke the stock distribution land reform plan in Luisita, subjecting all agricultural areas in the estate for distribution to farmworkers.

“The whole world is aware of BS Aquino’s atrocious track record with Supertyphoon Yolanda (Haiyan) victims – he is the last person to champion climate justice. Now Aquino is hiding behind climate issues to justify the disposal of government resources for renewed landgrabbing in Luisita,” said Ranmil Echanis, UMA Secretary General.

“The TSPP in Luisita is never about renewable energy, reducing carbon emissions, or any other environmental issue that world leaders are supposedly debating about in Paris. The solar power project in Luisita is basically about landgrabbing, swindling and forcibly evicting farmworkers from this promised land,” he said.

UMA stressed that Aquino and his family’s business partners are engaged in this sophisticated landgrabbing effort only for ‘climate profits’ at the expense of the farmworkers. A German company, Conergy, is also a partner in the said PPP project. Corrupt landlords like the Aquino-Cojuangcos can easily brush off the farmers’ legitimate demands for land and justice to accommodate foreign investors who are ready to bankroll these so-called ‘green’ projects, according to UMA.

A similar solar project this time backed by a French company is in fact contested by farmworkers also affiliated with UMA and the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) in Victorias City, Negros Occidental.

In Hacienda Luisita, farmworkers from UMA’s local affiliate, Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (AMBALA) reported that last November 26 and 28, two truckloads of heavily-armed soldiers together with two mobile cars full of police elements escorted linesmen and laborers of PetroSolar subcontractors at Barangay Balete to set up electrical posts within a disputed agricultural area claimed by Cojuangco-Aquino firm TADECO.

The TSPP is to be constructed within another disputed area, a 500-hectare property claimed by RCBC, a sister company of PetroSolar and PetroGreen.  Protests by AMBALA members managed to temporarily halt construction.

AMBALA Chairperson Florida Sibayan was reportedly hurt in an earlier altercation with goons allegedly in the payroll of the TSPP project.

Farmers who have cultivated the said areas since 2005 have been displaced by orchestrated violent attacks by police, security guards and goons from 2011-2014. The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) issued a Notice of Land Reform Coverage (NOC) for TADECO lands in 2013 which only emboldened the Cojuangco-Aquinos to commit more atrocities.

UMA likewise scored the DAR for allowing TSPP construction despite its recognition of agrarian disputes existing in the area. Defiant farmers and their advocates, including Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Fernando Hicap were among those nabbed by police, while most were charged by TADECO with various trumped-up harassment suits. Most of these charges were later reverted to DAR and duly categorized as agrarian in nature.

Meanwhile, AMBALA, through its counsels from the Sentro para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (SENTRA), still has a pending petition to revoke the DAR conversion order, issued way back in 1996, for the RCBC area.

“The DAR has the authority to stop TADECO, RCBC and PetroSolar from setting-up structures in disputed agricultural areas or agrarian reform areas supposedly covered by their notices and categorizations. This agency, however, has only been effective as a despicable adjunct of BS Aquino’s haciendero presidency.”

BS Aquino’s COP21 posturing only exposes his reign as “PH disaster president”


Reference: Gi Estrada, UMA Media Officer, 0916.611.4181

President BS Aquino’s presence at the 21st Conference of Parties (COP 21) Climate Talks in Paris, France will merely highlight his reign as the country’s “disaster president,” according to the national agriworkers federation Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA).

“He will only be posturing with his claims that the Philippines would help mitigate effects of climate change,” said Ranmil Echanis, UMA Secretary-General. “The Aquino administration’s commitment to maintain and expand corporate agricultural plantations especially in Mindanao is a testament to this hypocrisy.”

“Aquino himself is the country’s biggest disaster,” UMA observed.

UMA and the newly-formed Network Resisting Expansion of Agricultural Plantations in Mindanao (REAP-Mindanao Network) have pointed out that Aquino’s aggressive drive to convert millions of hectares of land to corporate plantations in the next few years will result in massive destruction of forests, loss of biodiversity, and will inevitably contribute to the global problem of climate change.

According to REAP, 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 Aquino government’s drive to aggressively increase the scope of various agricultural plantations in Mindanao will definitely destroy Mindanao’s traditional 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.

Operations of corporate agricultural plantations have also been observed to increase the public’s vulnerability during natural calamities and to exacerbate disasters like flash floods during typhoon Sendong (Washi) in 2011 and Pablo (Bophal) in 2012. In Region 10 alone, over 1,200 persons were killed in flashfloods prompted by Sendong.  After Pablo ravaged Davao and Compostela provinces, thousands were left homeless and without livelihood due to damages suffered by these Mindanao regions.

Through various progressive groups such as Anakpawis, peasants and other victims of calamities took it upon themselves to organize relief operations and quick-reaction teams, as they demanded justice and fiercely criticized the Aquino government’s incompetence and criminal negligence. “Did BS Aquino learn anything on climate change and disaster risk reduction from Sendong and Pablo? Supertyphoon Yolanda (Haiyan) even showed the whole world how utterly insensitive, corrupt and inept this ‘disaster president’ can be,” said Echanis.

“Even government experts are warning us that the Kitanglad and Kalatungan mountains in Bukidnon, for example, are now in terrible condition, with massive soil erosion and siltation of rivers caused by giant pineapple and banana plantations. Because of these plantations, Cagayan de Oro City should brace for flash floods worse than the deadly torrents brought by Typhoon Sendong in 2011,” according to an infographic by REAP.

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.

“Aquino is merely mimicking imperialist charades for mitigating climate change effects. Nothing much can be expected from Aquino, who is a loyal puppet of imperialist impositions and the actual neoliberal policies which drive plunder and massive ecological destruction in the Philippines and other impoverished countries across the globe.”