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.”