Government officials have finally stepped in to avert further bloodshed in the Tagum City land dispute between agrarian reform beneficiaries and Lapanday Foods Corp, after two more farmers were wounded in an attack the corporation’s guards today.
The latest outbreak of violence brings to nine the number of farmers injured since beneficiaries asserted on December 9 their claim to land already awarded by the DAR and the regional trial court.
Wounded were Randy Rana and another farmer, surnamed Patindol, who were among seven members standing guard over field workers harvesting crop and then slashing down banana trees.
Aides of Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Rafael Mariano, who is issuing a cease and desist order today against Lapanday, and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) have been coordinating since rthe initial outbreak of violence last Dec. 12.
Soon after word of the second attack broke, the DILG issued orders to local officials, prompting aid for beleaguered farmers.
In a telephone interview, Tagum Mayor Allan L Rellon, who reached the site around 10 am, said he had ordered the local police to disarm the guards.
Rellon also said he would put up a “command incident center” to prevent further violence.
Renante Mantos, chairperson of Hugpong Sa Mga Mag-uuma sa Walhog Compostela (Humawac), the alliance of farmer cooperatives from the Tagum barangays of Madaum and San Isidro said, also in a phone interview, that local cops had initially refused to step in because the incident happened on private land.
He said both incidents were premeditated and without provocation from farmers.
Rellon said his office had attempted a dialogue in the city hall with the chief of police and provincial agrarian reform officials. He said it did not push through because farmers’ representatives would not leave their camp site on the disputed land.
Mantos said leaders wanted farmers to listen to the dialogue and they could not abandon the land because the armed guards would move in.
Slashed trees: Marbai representatives have harvested and slashed down around five hectares of banana crop, saying they would plant the cleared land with vegetable crops to augment the food needs of 159 families.
Farmers were cutting down banana trees when guards of Lapanday’s security agency, ACDISA, attacked this morning, according to Mantos.
Mantos said farmers had slashed at least five hectares of banana plantations yesterday.
“The guards would not let us farm and harvest in peace so we decided on an action that would also deprive them of what Lapanday wants to steal from us,” Mantos said in the local dialect.
He also said the cleared land would be rehabilitated and planted with vegetables and other crops that could augment the food needs of some 159 beneficiary families.
The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) had sent a legal team and held an emergency meeting after the first shooting incident last December 12.
It immediately ordered regional and provincial executives to probe the incident and file cases against some 20 perpetrators, led by the head guard only identified by his surname, Vicente.
Lawyer Jobert Pahilha, legal consultant for DAR Secretary Rafael Mariano, said officials would also file today with DARAB (adjudication board) Davao del Norte a motion for Execution of the May 12, 2016 order of installation and to Supervise Harvest.
Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator (PARAD) Jose Nilo Tillano issued a ruling in December 2015 for the Marbai members to be installed on the disputed 145 hectares.
“The said decision has long been final and executory but was not implemented by PARAD Tillano for one reason or another,” Pahilga said.
In October this year, impatient farmer-beneficiaries camped out in front of the Lapanday gate. Mariano had dialogued with the farmers, saying the government wanted to install them peacefully without compromising their safety and security.
Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano has ordered the Regional Office of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Region XI, and the Provincial Agrarian Reform Office of Davao Del Norte to probe the reported gunfire attack by security guards of the Lapanday Foods Corporation (LFC) at the farmers’ encampment in Brgy. Madaum, Tagum City.
A press release from the DAR said Mariano also instructed local DAR officials to coordinate with the Philippine National Police of Davao del Norte for the possible filing of cases against the suspects of the shooting incident.
What follows is the rest of the press release
“Six victims, including a 16-year-old minor, were taken to the Davao Regional Medical Center after sustaining gunshot wounds at around 7:45 a.m. An airborne craft was also seen spraying pesticide at the campsite immediately after the reported incident.
Farmers of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association Inc. (MARBAI) have been staging a camp-in protest at the LFC compound after successfully reclaiming the contested land last December 9, six years after the LFC evicted them out.
Almost 2,000 farmworkers and members of peasant organizations have joined the farmers’ camp in Brgy. Madaum to support the fight of the MARBAI farmers.
MARBAI members are farmer beneficiaries who were given Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOAs) in 1996 under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). Each of the 159 farmers owns a 0.79-hectare piece of the 145-hectare banana plantation.
According to Mely Yu, President of MARBAI, they were forced to enter a Banana Sales and Marketing Agreement with the LFC who buys their products for export. They were tricked into selling high-grade bananas which were poorly classified for a lower price, thus, resulting to a measly Php 2,000.00 monthly income, she added. Because of the agreement, the farmer beneficiaries became indebted to LFC for more or less a billion pesos (P1,000,000,000.00)
The DAR has been meeting with the farmers for their installation to the 145 hectares as ordered by Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator (PARAD) Jose Nilo Tillano in his December 15, 2015 decision, which has long been final and executory.
In October of this year, when the farmer-beneficiaries were already in a camp-out in front of the gate of LFC, Secretary Mariano himself visited the farmers and had a dialogue with them assuring them that DAR is studying the matter carefully and wanted to install them peacefully into their landholding without compromising their safety and security.
A long-running conflict between Lapanday Foods Corporation and agrarian reform beneficiaries in Tagum City, the capital of Davao del Norte, exploded today in a shooting incident that followed a successful attempt by farmers to reclaim their land.
Renante Mantos, chairperson of Hugpong Sa Mga Mag-uuma sa Walhog Compostela (Humawac), the alliance of farmer cooperatives from the Tagum barangays of Madaum and San Isidro, said in a phone interview that guards of Lapanday’s security agency, ACDISA, wounded seven protesters.
Jose Balucos, 42yrs old; Rico Saladaga , Jojo Gomez , Belardo Francisco, Emanuel Buladaco,46 yrs old; Taldan Miparanun,16yrs old; and Joseph Bertulfo, 58yrs old, were rushed to the Davao Regional Medical Center.
Buladaco and Bertulfo are among the 159 direct beneficiaries involved in the protest, according to Mantos, who remains with more than 200 farmers on the reclaimed land.
The others are members of Humawac cooperatives in the Southern Mindanao area, who reinforced the beneficiaries in their efforts to assert their landonwership that a regional trial court and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in 2011. He said they are waiting for medical updates on their colleagues.
The shooting came two days after some 2,000 agrarian reform beneficiaries and supporters stormed the gates of their land – forcibly taken over by Lapanday in 2011 following the DAR decision.
Mantos said armed guards of Lapanday entered the encampment past 7 a.m.
He and other protest leaders were holding a dialogue with the guards’ leader, only known by his surname, Vicente, just three meters from the main bulk of protesters when they heard gunshots.
As protesters rushed to aid the fallen, the guards retreated. The other protesters strengthened their barricades and undertook defensive formations.
After the wounded were taken off the encampment, Mantos siad, the guards returned, having replaced their guns with wooden clubs. They challenged the farmers to a brawl but were ignored, Mantos added.
The land dispute in an area barely an hour from President Rodrigo Duterte’s Davao City turf has been festering since 1996 when the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) awarded 724 farmers in Madaum nearly 570 hectates of land, mostly planted with banana export crop.
Lapanday just released this statement:
Lapanday Foods Corporation (LFC) denies any involvement in the reported shooting of alleged agrarian reform beneficiaries in Barangay Madaum, Tagum City this morning. Since last week, the company has been seeking police assistance to investigate the presence of armed men who were seen within the areas under Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative 1 (HEARBCO-1). HEARBCO-1 which has acknowledged its existing and valid contracts with LFC has been in conflict with a breakaway group of its former members led by Mely Yu who has been engaging armed men to inflict violence and disrupt operations in the farm. Mely Yu and her group were ousted as officers by the majority of HEARBCO-1 in 2011 and since then, her group has caused severe damage to the cooperative. This internal conflict among the HEARBCO-1 and this breakaway group may be the reason for this latest incident.
Protesters deny the claim of armed men, saying guards fired in the air when they asserted farmers’ right to the land. A Kilab Multimedia photo shows most of the protesters without shirts “to prove they were not armed.”
The timeline of the land dispute also indicates that Lapanday has waged a legal battle with the farmers — and lost its case twice.
A decade of woes
The DAR order was covered by Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) No.00398239, issued under Transfer Certificate of Title No. C-10527 and registered on 18 December 1996.
The mother cooperative of beneficiaries, the HIJO EMPLOYEES AGRARIAN REFORM COOPERATIVE 1 (HEARCO1), signed a Banana Sales and Marketing Agreement (BSMA) with Lapanday, owned by the Lorenzo family.
Mantos said within two years, many farmer beneficiaries expressed dismay at the low price for their products and the many supposed debts subtracted from their sales income, “kasi di nila alam saan nanggagaling ang utang at walang supporting documents.”
In the ten years, from 1998 to 2008, skirmishes between restive beneficiaries and guards cost two lives and injured several from both sides of the conflict. Farmer leaders were also booted out of work and reinstated only after years of legal battle.
When the contract with Lapanday expired in 2009, the beneficiaries undertook a referendum for future plans. Majority voted to extend the contract, while 159 voted No.
The nay-voters eventually reached an agreement with the mother cooperative, which allowed them to leave, ceding over 145 hectares covered by a document.
“They found a new buyer with better contract — $8 a box from $4 a box paid by Lapanday,” Mantos said.
The DAR ruled in favor of the benificiaries in 2010, upholding their right to the land parcel ceded by the mother cooperative.
Lapanday: no owner – but exerts control
Mantos said the 145 hectares is only one case. Other land parcels are also involved in on-going disputes between beneficiaries and Lapanday, for unjust wages and onerous practices – reminiscent, he said, of the old, feudal plantation setups in the pre-CARP era.
Lapanday denies ownership of the land. But it filed a a case against the new group, covering the lands they tilled. The corporation lost that legal battle too, with the regional trial court ruling in favor of the formers.
Mantos said the agrarian reform beneficiaries were preparing to till the land after victory when “300 Lapanday guards and goons atacked.”
“Tinutukan sila ng baril at pinalayas,” he said. (Guns were pointed at them and they were forced off the land.)
Despite the legal victories, the beneficiaries were kept out of their lands for the next six years.
After seven months of pickets at the gate of Lapanday’s local office, the farmers sought reinforcement from other peasant’s group in the region and entered to reclaim their land on December 9.
“Lapanday Foods Corporation clarifies that it does not claim ownership over agrarian reform lands awarded to Hijo Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative (HARBCO) and Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative 1 (HEARBCO-1). This is in reaction to a recent gathering of members and sympathizers of these cooperatives at its offices in Davao City,” the statement read. The LFC said these cooperatives remain the absolute owners of these lands and they only want “these cooperatives honor and respect their valid and lawful contracts with LFC that mandate them to sell the bananas produced in their farms to LFC and allow LFC to manage their farms to ensure the quality of their produce.” The company also said in the contracts where HARBCO borrowed funds for its use from LFC, HARBCO and LFC entered into a banana sales and marketing agreement in 1998 and a general framework on farm handling last December 23, 2008. In these contracts, HARBCO committed to exclusively sell bananas produced in its farm to LFC and allow LFC to manage its farms to ensure the export quality of the bananas.
The Kilusang Mambubukid ng Pilipinas – Southern Mindanao said the tagum dispute “is a classic example of what Pres.Duterte refers to as Feudalism.”
The KMP urged Duterte “to walk the talk” and intervene with the farmers upholding the DAR decision.
“We hope that he understands very well that agrarian reform remains myth so long as landlords continously grabbed the lands of nameless farmers. If the farmers will not fight for their rights to survive what assurance can they get from this landlord-dominated government?” said KMP-SMR chairperson, Pedro Arnado.
Lords of the land
The Tagum dispute is an emblem of the struggles that face Filipino farmers decades after the passage of what was pledged to be a landmark law for a comprehensive agrarian reform program (CARP) and congress approval of a successor program, Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reform (CARPER).
Lapanday is controlled by the Lorenzo clan. Its chief executive officer, Regina Lorenzo, is the sister of Martin Lorenzo, a top executive of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac, the sugar mill of the Cojuangco clan’s sprawling Hacienda Luisita.
A recent outbreak of violence also occurred in Luisita, where beleaguered land workers still have to benefit fully from a final Supreme Court ruling in 2013.
Distribution of land has gone very slowly for beneficiaries. In 2009, the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department of the House of Representatives, said CARP had a balance of 1.6 million hectares, covering 1.2 million farmer beneficiaries. The environment department, it added, also had nearly 600,000 hectares of land still undistributed to farmer-tillers.
CARPER received a P150 billion budget. But in a 2015 report, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism said DAR had still failed to distribute 726, 421 hectares and the DENR still had some 100,000 hectares to go.
Even those who have received land continue to struggle from their lack of access to affordable credit, the continued lack of support mechanisms from government and the market control exercised by agriculture dealers who are also often big landlords.
The hardships often end up with re-concentration of lands, which are then blamed on workers and not on government neglect and collusion with big landowners.
Mariano said the proposed EO should also cover applications for exemption/exclusion of land from the coverage of CARP and other agrarian reform laws and programs.
The practice is currently allowed by Section 20 of the Local Government Code, which authorizes municipal and city councils to reclassify agricultural lands into other uses.
It’s a long, long fight, paid for by tears and blood. Farmers formed the bulk of restive Filipinos who rose up against the dictator Ferdinand Marcos and joined the New People’s Army as big ticket development projects drove them off their lands.
Even as National Democratic Front (NDF) consultants Wilma and Benito Tiamzon finally walked out of detention from Camp Crame today, reports from regions indicate that state security agencies are stepping up attacks against legal activists.
The Rural Missionaries of thePhilippines reported the arrest today (August 19), around noon, of 64-year old Amelia pond, the order’s regional coordinator for Southern Mindanao.
Pond is also the research and documentation officer for the Salugpungan School Network in Mindanao, which remain the only available opportunities for education of indigenous children.
The attack happened as peace panels of the government and the NDF were preparing for the resumption of long-stalled peace talks in Oslo, Norway.
Pond was accosted by members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) criminal instigation and detection group (CIDG) after a three day RMP assembly at the Living the Gospel Renewal Center on Archbishop Reyes Avenue, in Cebu City’s Lahug district.
Her arrest came as activists and peace advocates were hailing the release of the Tiamzon couple, which brought the number of freed National Democratic Front (NDF) political prisoners to 17.
“They will join 15 others so far released in peace talks in Oslo on August 22 and for consultations with the NDF Negotiating Panel,” lawyer Edre Olalia said. Two of the released consultants are not joining the Oslo talks as they need urgent medical care, NDF sources said.
The RMP report said Pond was in a taxi with three other people when CIDG cops blocked them. They forced her out of the vehicle.
“The female CIDG held her by the arm and asked her with different names but she denied. This was followed by more questions showed photographs, and a supposed warrant of arrest, but they did not make her read the warrant,” the report said.
“One of Amy’s companion insisted that she should read the warrant for her to know what her case is but despite Amy and her companion’s insistence they failed to let Amy read the warrant. Amy vehemently resisted this illegal arrest.”
The witnesses said one of the CIDG men went near Amy and inserted two ID’s in her bag.
“Then they asked her to alight the car. She refused to go with them but they forced her. In this instance, Sr. Francis Anover and Sr. Marisol Garduno who were also in the center immediately went to her rescue.”
Pond was brought to Camp Sotero in Cebu City. and charged with double murder and frustrated murder in Compostela Valley under the name of Adelfa Toledo.
Before Pond’s arrest, Quezon province cops nabbed a peasant leader identified with the military party-list group, Anakpawis.
Bulatlat quoted Pacalda as saying the peasant leader held with him his copy of the certificate from the National Amnesty Commission when he was arrested at around 9 a.m. Aug. 12. He was on a jeepney en route to the Anakpawis Partylist’s office in Catanauan town.
The rebellion charge against Pajalla, which is the ground for his arrest, was first filed in 1995. But Pajalla was granted amnesty by President Ramos in 1997, said Pacalda.
Karapatan and other rights groups have warned that the continuing presence of paramilitary troops — trained and supervised by the military — represents a major threat to the peace process.
“We must watch out for saboteurs,” said Catholic Bishop (Caloocan City) Deogracias Yñiguez on the eve of the Tiamzons’ release. He said church workers and civil society and people’s organizations must remain vigilant on human rights violations and other abuses, which could wreak havoc on the peace process.
The Ecumenical Bishops Forum and the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, Yñiguez said, worked hard with other groups “to find many ways to ensure that the crucial peace process resumes.”
Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Judy M. Taguiwalo confirmed that paramilitary troops strafed a lumad community on July 30 during holding a wedding in San Fernando, Bukidnon, killing a pregnant woman and wounding seven other people, including five children.
A DSWD report said a paramilitary group associated with the 8th Infantry Batallion of the Philippine Army. Taguiwalo said all victims beneficiaries of the DSWD’s 4Ps and Modified Conditional Cash Transfer Program (MCCT).
Taguiwalo also ordered an investigation into the provision of projects for suspected mastermind ‘Alde Salusad’ or ‘Butsoy’ despite a warrant of arrest for a previous killing of a lumad datu, Jimmy Liguyon, in front of his small children.
The Save Our Schools (SOS) network said attacks on indigenous schools in Mindanao have increased following then assumption of Duterte. The tough talking leader has close links to restive indigenous groups fighting against the entry of big mining firms and plantations into their ancestral lands.
In the areas around Duterte’s home city of Davao, teachers were forced to close down some schools because of death threats, according to SOS executive director Rius Valle.
He said paramilitary forces trained and supervised by military officials were hunting the teachers in the Pacquibato district of Davao City.
“They documented attempts to kill them,” Valle said in an interview.”The two teachers had to close down the school and seek sanctuary in Davao City.”
After the Paquibato incident, which happened just before Duterte’s first State of the Nation Address (Sona), paramilitary troops also killed the leader of a parents’ association in a lumad school on the outskirts of Davao City. The community in the area have a long running feud with religious leader Apollo Quiboloy of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, a known supporter and friend of Duterte.
On August 13, six men, riding in tandem on three motorcycles, also strafed a group of lumad in Barangay Zillovia, Talacogon, Agusan del Sur. A woman, shot in the chest, had to be placed under intensive care.
The victims are indigenous claimants to land now covered by an forestry agreement granted to Provident Tree Farms, INc.
The RMP said the incident is connected to an earlier series of attacks, including the murder of Datu Mansulbadan, the former supreme datu of the Manobo community in the area.
Four other Manobo — including a 13-year old boy — who were the apparent target of the gunmen suffered less serious injuries. The attack also prompted an evacuation of residents.
I oppose the candidacy of Rodrigo Duterte because of his views — and actions — that are inimical to human rights. I oppose the candidacy of the dictator’s son, who still pines for the bloody paradise of his father.
“If you allow them to oppress your fellow man and you do not speak up, you will be the next one to be oppressed.”
Aquino repeated the famous quotes of Martin Niemoller, a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken critic of Hitler and spent the last years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.
“First they came for the communists, but I did not speak out because I was not a communist… finally they came for me and there was no one left to speak up for me.”
Let me jog your memory, Mr. President. What did your government do while soldiers and para-military forces hounded Lumad to death in Mindanao?
When the Lumad sought sanctuary in Davao, your Liberal Party colleague tried to force their “rescue”.
Your Armed Forces earned a sharp dressing down from a UN expert when they tried to manipulate his words and the truth (yes, pretty much Goebbels-style, right?)
You snubbed the Lumad when they came to the capital to call attention to their plight.
Yet your allies in Congress and your AFP brass — and your national security office in Malacanang — hosted pet datus as they preached their belief that anyone with “alien” ideology was fair game for murder.
Nobody came to the aid of 15-year old Manobo boy from Sitio Mando, Barangay Mendis, Pangantucan, Bukidnon.
He didn’t just hear of the murders of his kin, Mr. President. He actually begged soldiers to spare their lives, appealing that his father, brothers and cousins be jailed if, indeed, they had done anything wrong. His father was 70 and blind; his brothers 20 and 19 years old. One of his cousins was 13 years old; the other was 17.
He begged the soldiers, Mr. President. And they shot father, brothers and cousins, one by one.
Remember them, Sir?
On September 1, in Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao Sur, the head teacher of a lumad alternative school was found murdered.
Emerito Samarca’s students at the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) discovered his body. The folk at Diatagon had no access to education until private efforts established Alcadev for Manobo, Banwaon, Higanon, Talaandig and Mamanwa youth.
You spurned Alcadev’s students when they were in town late 2014 to protest the militarization of their schools.
A year later, these same children saw Dionel Campos and his cousin Belio Sinzo murdered by paramilitary troops.
The three gentlemen’s crime — providing a safe space for the education of children neglected by government.
No one came to help the hapless Lumad, Mr. President. No one from your government. It took private citizens and people’s organizations and churches to come to their aid.
And don’t you talk of coming to the aid of people suspected of being communists.
There have been more than 300 cases of extra-judicial killings under your administration. Eighty of these involved indigenous people or tribal groups. Almost always, people your government suspects of being communist.
You couldn’t even be bothered over the death of hungry farmers, Mr. President. Spare us your warnings.
We know about tyrants and what they can do to the country.
You speaking on our behalf isn’t just silly and thoughtless as you often are. It is criminal, because it seeks to use legitimate fears to cover-up your government’s attrocities.
Your government kills teachers and children, Mr. President. WE WILL NOT FORGET.
*Featured image by Kathy Yamzon, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan – National Capital Region
Thousands of Filipinos joined today’s global climate change march led by the Roman Catholic church to protest a mitigation program that they say favors big business.
As President Benigno Aquino Jr. readies for his talk in Paris on behalf of nations vulnerable to climate change, environmentalists in the Philippines say the race to build coal-fired power plans and start mining operations on indigenous peoples’ lands erode his credibility.
Environmental groups like Kalikasan, Caraga Watch and Greenpeace International say the push for coal sets back the country’s pledge to reduce carbon emissions by 70% within the next 15 years.
Even the government’s ambitious re-greening program covering more than 7 million hectares of denuded lands has come under fire because of the focus on plantation cash-crops that include oil palms, the source of the deadly Indonesian haze that recently blanketed Southeast Asia.
Caraga Watch, which monitors investment projects in Southern Mindanao, links these big development projects to the spate of attacks on Lumad.
More than 60 indigenous leaders in Mindanao have died in resource conflicts since 2010. Ten of the dead were children. The attacks, which almost always precede the entry of mining and plantations have displaced more than 40,000 Lumad, according to the human rights group Karapatan.
Many of the rights violations are traced to paramilitary groups that received funding, arms and training after Mr. Aquino allowed the creation of investment defense forces.
Clemente Bautista of Kalikasan forecasts Mr. Aquino’s short talk next week before the 21st Conference of Parties (COP 21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as “grandstanding double talk that will ultimately toe the line of the United States and other top big polluter countries.”
He pointed out that coal and other fossil fuel power projects in the pipeline comprise more than 80 percent of all upcoming energy projects in the Philippines.
“In order to make climate solutions work for our nation, we need to put pressure not only on the world leaders, but most especially on our country’s leaders themselves,” Bautista said.
Sen. Loren Legarda has warned that the push for coal jeopardizes the country’s commitments to ease climate change.
“They say that coal is cheap. I say, coal is not cheap. Coal affects our health, kills biodiversity and the environment, affects our waters and pollutes the air we breathe,” Legarda stressed.
The government’s energy program originally called for a 30-30-30 energy mix with natural gas, coal and renewables each accounting for 30% with 10% reserved for alternative technologies.
Legarda, however, said coal now dominates the country‘s energy mix, accounting for for 42.5% of power generated. By 2020, she added, coal would account for 56% of the mix.
“Barring any intervention, this will further increase to 75% by 2030— the highest share of coal among countries in Asia,” Legarda said.
Twenty-three new power plans are starting operations in the next five years.
“By embracing coal, the Philippines loses its credibility in fighting for a good climate change treaty,” Greenpeace Southeast Asia said.
“From mining to combustion, coal is the most polluting of all fossil fuels. A third of all carbon dioxide emissions come from burning coal … Coal releases more carbon dioxide than any other fossil fuel and coal mining is responsible for 8-10% of human-made methane emissions globally.”
Threat to Lumad lives
Michelle Campos lost her father, Dionel, to a September militia attacked linked to coal mining. Soldiers acting on behalf of mining firms are demand a halt to Lumad resistance in the 60,000-hectare Andap Valley complex, she said.
While Lumad huddled in a displacement camp, mining firm Abacus brought in mining equipment and personnel into the valley, according to Caraga watch.
Data from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the environment department show half a dozen mining firms, including some responsible for horrific disasters, preparing to start operations.
Coal mining contracts cover 6,000 hectares in Lianga, Campos’ hometown, where militia killed her father, an uncle and the head of a Lumad school for “poising the minds” of IPs against extractive industries.
The town hosts the world’s biggest coal block reserve, according to Caraga Watch.
Coal, the country’s major lignite reserve, can be found in three of its provinces: Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur. The biggest bulk of coal reserve is said to be found in Bislig and the Andap Valley Complex which covers the municipalities of Tandag, Tago, San Miguel, Cagwait, Marihatag, San Agustin and Lianga in Surigao del Sur.
Aside from approving coal mine applications, the government is pushing construction of coal-fired power plants in Surigao del Sur and nearby provinces.
Mr. Aquino promises peace and greater economic standards from his development thrust.
The Ibon Philippines think tank, however, notes that most of the financial gains from mining — the country’s mineral reserves are valued USD 1.387 trillion or five times the country’s 2013 gross domestic product — go to the big private firms.
Resource conflicts, meanwhile, put much burdens on local government units whose please to disband paramilitary forces have been ignored by Mr. Aquino.
“When we protect our ancestral lands we also protect all Filipinos, especially Mindanaoans, from environmental devastation and food insecurity,” Campos stressed. “When President Aquino talks of development and peace, he means the peace of the graveyard for our people.”
Sixty of them, including ten children have been killed under his watch. Yet, to Aquino, who has brushed aside mounting charges of human rights violations by the military, only criminals need to fear the AFP.
Military officers and the datus who support the militia they train, initially said the NPA is to blame for the killings. When identities of the killers are brought up, they shift and say the NPA is to blame because they brainwash the Lumad into becoming supporters.
But nothing has come close to the proposition uttered today in the House of Representatives hearing led by Rep. Nancy Catamco of North Cotabato — who prides herself in being a goddess to the Lumad and whose idea of saving them is to send an armed force to wrest them from sanctuary.
With Catamco throwing leading questions, some Manobo datu or chieftains gave a novel justification for the killing on September 1 of Emerito Samarca, the head teacher of an award-winning school for Lumad youth.
Samarca’s students found him sprawled in his room at Alcadev, in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, with a bullet wound in his chest and a throat slit from side to side. The children discovered his body a few minutes after witnessing the execution of Lumad leaders Dionel Campos and Juvello Sinzo by paramilitary forces.
The militia had earlier forced Alcadev’s entire population out of the school compound, but held back Samarca.
Here is impunity in its full glory. Here are government-approved “leaders” and a legislator making a case for the killing of a teacher.
His crime: supposedly “poisoning the minds of students”.
Catamco had tried her best to portray Alcadev, an award-winning alternative school for Lumad youth, which has earned fame for the academic achievements of its students and for improving farm yields in the Andap Valley, as a nursery for rebels.
Catamco: “Why was Samarca killed? Was he killed through the magahat?”
Datu Jumar Bucales of San Isidro, Lianga: “Siya ang naglalason sa mga tao (He poisoned the people).”
Catamco: “Iyan ba ang rason, dahil siya ay may nagawang kasalanan sa tribo, dahil inapakan niya ang kultura ng tribo sa pagtuturo ng isang ideolohiya (Is that the reason, because he sinned against the tribe and trampled on tribal culture by teaching an ideology)?”
Bucales: “Iyan ang rason, kasi iyong mga graduate ng ALCADEV pumupunta sa kilusan (Yes, because the graduates of ALCADEV choose to support the movement).”
You would think a legislator would recognize the fact that the Constitution and the penal code of the country ban murder.
Instead, Catamco tried to frame murder as an acceptable act under Lumad customary law, suggesting that the decision came under the auspices of a Lumad ritual. Bucales answered in the negative.
And then the former chair of the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) said former rebels among the Lumad may have undertaken the situal for the magahat because the community would not heed their demands to stop supporting rebels.
This is the Philippines, supposed one of Asia’s most vibrant democracies.
This is the Philippines, where the military and Malacanang national security aides, and the entire coterie of paramilitary datus, have their own peace plan for the Lumad.
First, the Lumad should all decamp from displacement centers, leave Manila and return home, where they can settle their “problems” away from the prying eyes of media, rights groups and worried clergy and nuns of various churches.
Second, the Lumad must turn over all chieftains suspected of supporting the rebels.
The statements made in Catamco’s hearing can be understood better in this context:
I met Marcial Belandres, a friend of Bucales and one of those datus linked to killings to Lumad leaders, during a Malacanang-organized meeting with bloggers.
He admits having killed former comrades. He has also been tagged as among those who killed of Henry Alameda, Campos’ predecessor, last year. Alameda’s wife identified him.
Belandres and Nestor Apas, another pro-AFP datu who claims to be the leader of the Talaingod lumad, say the NPA has eroded their role as tribal leaders.
Probed on this claim, they complain that their people have started questioning their decisions.
Apas seems to think Lumad under his “domain” have no freedom to make up their minds on issues. This is the root of his charge that the evacuees at the Haran mission compound in Davao City are victims of trafficking.
It is a claim shared by Catamco. Apas is unabashedly pro-mining.
I once asked a military officer – a Lumad from Bukidnon – what happens when a datu’s constituents actually disagree with him and want to leave the community to escape military harassment. His answer: the datu must prevail.
A study sponsored by the German federal government and aided by the NCIP, noted many violations committed in process of getting “free, prior, informed consent” (FPIC) from owners of ancestral lands. It also pointed out that some datu – traditionally with powers to act for their communities, had exploited the process.
The study also hinted at what may be the real cause of Apas’ and Belandres’ complaints: pro-mining datu were at times thwarted by constituents’ preference for one-person-one-vote process.
This, the datu take to be the handiwork of the communist underground.
Apas and Belandres spent hours peddling their peace process.
Belandres, who believes he should be rewarded with rubber and palm oil plantations for his exploits, said only the AFP shall be allowed to witness the “peace pact.”
Asked what happens if the Lumad refuse to accede to demands that they allow “development” in their areas, Belandres said this should be blamed on the rebellious NPA datu.
Asked how datu known to coordinate with government officials on behalf of their communities could be guerrillas, Belandres said many rebels do not carry arms –but that does not mean they are innocent.
Belandres, Bucales and Rico Mapa , among others, are datu who command the paramilitary forces in Mindanao.
The military trains and supervises these militia – as the governor of Surigao del Sur has repeated in interview after interview, hearing after hearing, as senators and rights officials of the government acknowledge.
Your lands or death
Datu Tungig Mansumay-at, a Talaingod Manobo, told me that with every incursion into Lumad communities, the military come with one message.
“The military tell us, ‘you, datu, when the NPAs are gone, since you are the one near the Pantaron range, you will get rich because we can facilitate projects under the government,” Datu Tungig said.
Soldiers also equate peace with the “surrender” of the Talaingod Lumad and their enrolment in the area militia called the Almara, he added.
President Aquino himself approved the funding of these militia by mining corporations.
The military peddles that same line of the datu in Catamco’s hearing. Catamco loves spouting off on customary law to justify attacks against restive Lumad.
There are no civilians. There are only pro-government forces – or rebels. People who oppose government-sanctioned plans are rebels. And rebels are fair game for killings.