ACTION ALERT - THE PHILIPPINES
The indigenous peoples (Higaonons) and peasants of Opol in Misamis Oriental in Southern Philippines are currently struggling against land grabbing resulting from a monoculture oil palm plantation, promoted by the A Brown Company, Inc (ABCI). Since the beginning of the plantation’s operations, Higaonons and other villagers have experienced severe human rights violations such as forced eviction, illegal arrest, strafing and harassment.
They are in need of international support. The affected villages call for the Philippine government to stop land grabbing and respect human rights.
SAMPLE LETTER TO BE SENT TO NATIONAL AUTHORITIES:
Hon. Benigno Simeon Aquino III
President, Republic of the Philippines
New Executive Building
Malacañang Palace Compound J. P. Laurel St., San Miguel, Manila
Dear President Aquino III,
The indigenous peoples (Higaonons) and peasants of Opol in Misamis Oriental in Southern Philippines are currently struggling with land grabbing from a monoculture tree plantation. In August 2010, the affected communities have learned that Nakeen Corporation, a subsidiary of A Brown Company, Inc (ABCI) was given permission to establish a oil palm plantation on a 520-hectare land situated in the villages of Tingalan and Bagocboc in Opol in the province of Misamis Oriental. Since the beginning of the plantation’s operations, Higaonons and other villagers have experienced gross human rights violations such as forced eviction, illegal arrest, strafing and harassment. Villagers opposing the plantation even reported that their crops were either uprooted or destroyed using toxic chemicals by company security guards; and have also witnessed degradation of other productive resources due to the plantation’s heavy utilisation of pesticides and herbicides.
Villagers have been deprived of their right to food for they report to have been left with little or no land to till; their meagre harvest of bananas, cassava, corn and sweet potatoes were even infested by rats and other pests brought in by the plantation. Now that the plantation is already on its second year, villagers no longer use the water from a nearby stream for drinking and food preparation for fear of being poisoned.
The indigenous rights of Higaonons have also been violated by ABCI. A sacred hilltop, which served as the burial ground of their ancestors, was quarried by the company for the construction of a road network inside the plantation. The company also planted palm oil in a ritual area that they called Bagonsilibo, an act considered as desecration by tribal elders. More so, the company violated the law-mandated free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) procedure by failing to obtain the consensus of all the members of the indigenous communities involved.
In a dialogue by the affected indigenous and peasant organizations, along with other national and international support groups, with officials of the Forest Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) last May 9, 2012 have shown that ABCI has not yet complied with all legal requirements to legally operate in the affected villages.
Thus the affected villages call for the Philippine government to investigate violations on the FPIC process and destruction of sacred sites through the NCIP, to compel A. Brown to clean up contaminated areas through the DENR, and to immediately address the loss of livelihood of displaced families and provide relief, punish perpetrators of HRVs, indemnify victims of HRVs and withdraw support for A. Brown through the Local Government Units (LGUs)!
Hon. Ramon J.P. Paje, CESO I
Secretary, Department of Environment and Natural Resources
2/F DENR Bldg., Visayas Avenue, Quezon City
Hon. Zenaida Brigida H. Pawid
Chairperson, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples
2/F N. Dela Merced Building cor. West and Quezon Avenues, Quezon City
Hon. Dexter B. Yasay
Municipal Mayor, Municipality of Opol
1/F Sangguniang Bayan Bldg., Poblacion, Opol, 9016 Misamis Oriental