PEASANTS OPPOSE OIL PALM
The newly-formed Network Resisting Expansion of Agricultural Plantations (REAP) 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), last year.
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 Philippines are currently located. The activity is part of the natural protest caravan, Manilakbayan ng Mindanao.
“With haze reaching the Philippines and other Asian nations like 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 remains 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 percent of plantation workers in Agusan Del Sur are children between 15 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 believed that palm oil firm A. Brown is behind the killing of Gilbert Paborada, local leader of the Hagaonon 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 palm plantations.
After the street conference, the REAP Mindanao Network brought its photo exhibit, “The Other Face of Plunder in Mindanao” for public viewing at the Manilakbayan camp-out or Kampuhan at Liwasang Bonifacio.
Malaysia has changed its crops like rice to rubber and palm oil trees. Malaysia is also developing Nipa Palm for the production of Ethanol envisioned to supply about 40 percent of Ethanol requirement of the world in 2020.
Traveling in Malaysia today, one will notice the Malaysian farms are mostly planted with trees that is why the weather is very envigorating, cool.
There is nothing wrong in the planting of industrial crops provided the workers are paid decently, and observe labor laws./MP