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Philippines: Indigenous Peoples And Farmers' Organizations Criticize The Biased Conclusion Of MisOr Provincial Council On Oil Palm Issue In Opol

Philippines: Indigenous Peoples And Farmers’ Organizations Criticize The Biased Conclusion Of MisOr Provincial Council On Oil Palm Issue In Opol


After the dialogue held on June 4, 2012, farmers and indigenous peoples’ groups question the conclusion of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (Provincial Council) saying that no land grabbing, human rights violations and pollution issues in Opol regarding the entry and operation of the Nakeen Corporation’s oil palm plantation, a subsidiary of the A. Brown Company, Inc.


“How can they dismiss all the complaints when clearly there are no documents that authorize the operation of A. Brown in the lands?” questioned Jomorito Goaynon, chairperson of Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization. “The ‘some lapses’ in the requirements of A. Brown that the DENR admits to is not a small issue. It is the point of the entire problem – the DENR national office said they had not yet released any tenurial instrument over the disputed land. And yet the company is operating there right now. Let me reiterate that the company started operating in 2011. Even if they release the permits now, it does not cover the past months – the past months when the company aggressively uprooted the crops of the farmers and destroyed their farms.”


The groups, Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization, Pangalasag Lumad Organization and the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, also expressed dismay over the lopsided process of presentation during the SP session. “They focused the discussion on whether or not Gilbert Paborada could claim a land in the said area,” said Richard Colao of KMP – Region X. “Whether or not Mr. Paborada could claim the land is not the entire point. The issue is the operation of A. Brown affected the community. They are trying to undermine the complaint of the families by attacking Mr. Paborada.”


Gilbert Paborada, for his part, explains that while they may not understand the various laws associated with land titling, the issue of land grabbing that Pangalasag is forwarding is not just the matter of A. Brown occupying the land now but is the historical driving out of the lumads from the land. “The NCIP is saying that no one has put in a complaint before therefore they did not know of our plights,” Mr. Paborada said. “But had they been active in explaining to us our rights? It is unfortunate that we only learned to fight for our rights now that when our land was declared a pastureland of the Paras Machinery Works, Inc years ago, our forefathers were not able to voice out. This is just a continued manifestation of the prioritization of the lands for companies over our, the Lumads’, rightful claim over our ancestral lands.”


The Sangguniang Panlalawigan is also quick to dismiss the cases of human rights violations and pollution without substantiation. “How do you call the threats to the residents, the efforts to stop their complaint?” said Mr. Goaynon. “Are these not considered violations because they were perpetrated by the government forces themselves – by the municipal government, by members of the barangay council, and even by the police? They might want to review their understanding of human rights. And we are not only referring to the people’s right to protest but there have been violations of the people’s economic, social and cultural rights as well. They were quick to say there was none when in fact they did not give us time to talk on this during the session.”


“During the SP session, A Brown and the government agencies were given the opportunity to give their side first,” said Mr. Colao. “When we were finally allowed to talk, they cut us short because they said that we did not have enough time. We would have accepted had they invited us to continue the dialogue another time. But they were quick to conclude from the very unfair ‘inquiry’– it did not even deserve to be called such. They did not even go to the field to check on the findings of the IFFM we had in April.”


In the findings of the International Fact Finding Mission (IFFM) conducted in April by the Pesticide Action Network – Asia and the Pacific, Asian Peasant Coalition, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization, Sentro Kitanglad, and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, the toxic pesticides Carbofuran and Glyphosate used in the oil palm plantation were documented. They have also documented an increase in the incidence of cough, colds, skin disease and diarrhea since the company started spraying the pesticides. Additionally, the banana and coconut trees that were not uprooted but stood near the plantation have stopped bearing fruits.


Source: Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization