Message of solidarity PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) Executive Director Sarojeni Rengam Ne gros Occidental, Philippines, May 30 – 31, 2017

On behalf of the PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) network and its regional secretariat, I wish to convey our warmest greetings of solidarity to the leaders and members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers – Food and General Trade (NFSWFGT) on the occasion of your Second National Congress.
Your congress’ theme of advancing the struggle for genuine land reform, rights and welfare of sugar workers resonates with PANAP’s own advocacy against land and resource grabbing and our work on the promotion of human rights in the region. The challenges that advocates of people’s rights, genuine agrarian reform, and food sovereignty face are truly daunting amid recent global and regional developments, on top of national political developments in the Philippines.
As you know and experience, with the global capitalist system still mired in its worst crisis yet, big corporate interests from the industrialized countries and the governments that represent them, as well as the local elites, have become ever more desperate and aggressive in grabbing land and resources from rural communities for profit-making. The rise of China and its scheme to establish itself as a global power through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and development finance under the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), among others, is creating more conditions for the massive dislocation of rural communities.
We are aware of, and have repeatedly raised with grave concern, the increasingly repressive situation that confronts Filipino land activists and peasant leaders, including those from the ranks of sugar workers such as one of your leaders Alexander Ceballos who was shot and killed last January 20. This pattern of atrocities against those resisting land and resource grabbing and defending the rural people’s rights and welfare is true in the entire region. We have monitored, for instance, a total of 272 killings related to land conflicts and struggles in Asia Pacific and other regions from January 2015 to May 15, 2017.

Let me also note that we share your apprehension of greater human rights abuses with the recent unfortunate declaration by President Duterte of Martial Law in Mindanao.
But we are delighted that the mass movement of Filipino sugar workers is being strengthened at a time when the exploitation, oppression, and repression of farmers, farmworkers, fisherfolk, indigenous people, rural women and youth, and other marginalized rural sectors in Asia Pacific and elsewhere continue and intensify and amid the many challenges at the global, regional and national levels. You are indeed an inspiration to PANAP and our partners, and encourage us to remain firm in our work and commitment for the interests and aspirations of the rural people despite the increasingly difficult circumstances we face.

We wish the leadership and members of NFSW-FGT great success in your Congress and beyond.
Salute to the Filipino sugar workers!
Long live the struggle for people’s rights and welfare and genuine agrarian reform!