FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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.”