Isabela farmers raged against bio-ethanol inspired landgrabbing

Isabela farmers raged against bio-ethanol inspired landgrabbing

San Mariano : Philippines | Feb 26, 2011 at 9:18 PM PST
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KMP and APC strongly oppose massive

ISABELA, Philippines - The Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) and the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) joins the Isabela farming communities in opposing massive land grabbing in San Mariano, Isabela.

San Mariano is a remote agricultural town in east Isabela, about 400 km north from Metro Manila, the capital city of the Philippines. It has the biggest municipal land area in the country and is endowed with rich natural resources (prime agricultural lands, water resources, forest and mineral resources). It is a first class municipality with a population of 44,718 people in 7,796 households. Its 36 barrios have a total area of 1,469.5 square kilometers or 146,950 hectares. Main crops are corn, rice and banana.

“The 4-day National Fact Finding and Solidarity Mission (NFFSM) from February 20-24, 2011, spearheaded by Danggayan Dagiti Mannalon ti Isabela (DAGAMI-KMP Chapter in Isabela) and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) in cooperation with the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) has just been concluded. At least 400 farmers and indigenous peoples (IPs) from 13 barangays of the municipality of San Mariano, Isabela participated in this activity that was held in barangay Del Pilar,” said Danilo Ramos, KMP and APC secretary general.

A recently formed joint venture, Green Future Innovations, INC. (GFII), which consists of two big Japanese companies, ITOCHU Corporation and JGC; GCO, a Taiwanese company together with local partners will be the operating company for the production and sale of ethanol with sugarcane as feedstock. Ecofuel Land Development, Inc. was also set up as a separate company in partnership with GFII, to put up the nursery sites and sugarcane plantations. According to San Mariano Mayor Edgar Go, the bio-ethanol plant will be operational by March 2012.

The fact finding mission found out that massive land grabbing is now prevalent in the areas that are also targeted for the plantation of sugarcane for the bio-ethanol project. Based on the interviews and sharing of farmers and IPs, various schemes such as anomalous land titling, foreclosure of Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) on farmers land and cancellation of Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs) have recently been more aggressive and widespread. There are also cases of crop conversion from palay, corn, vegetables and fruit trees to sugarcane. It was also observed by the fact finding mission that there is an increasing presence of military troops particularly in the areas where there is growing opposition to the project.

Ramos added,” the delegation found out that farmers and IPs have tilled their land for decades. But certain individuals have recently come out to claim ownership over their lands. In Barangay Pannanin, there are almost 60 cases of impending land foreclosures of LBP on CLOAs distributed to the farmers. Sacada workers themselves revealed that they only received wages ranging from P12 to P57 per day, with no food rations and worst, wages are delayed for weeks."

DAGAMI members who are vocal on the said issues are also threatened to be delisted as potential recipients of conditional cash transfer (CCT) in the form of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), according to Dionie Yadao, Chairperson of DAGAMI-San Mariano.

According to the local government, the sugarcane plantations will only cover idle lands not previously planted with food crops. But the NFFSM area visit and local testimonies revealed that these lands are cultivated lands and previously planted with palay, corn and banana.

Farmers and IPs also expressed that one of the rosy promises of the land lease deal offered by the proponents of bio-ethanol project is that a farmer who will devote his land for the production of sugarcane as feedstock will receive a land rent of P20,000 per year. But in reality, it is now reduced to a measly P5,000 per year which is not enough for the basic needs of their families. This is how their economic hardships being exploited.

The following are the demands of the affected farmers and indigenous people and the recommendations of the National Fact Finding and Solidarity Mission:

1. That their rights be recognized to own the lands that they have been tilling for decades;

2. That the lands of the farmers and indigenous peoples which have been grabbed must be returned to their possession and peaceful cultivation;

3. Conduct an investigation on the reported involvement of DAR, DENR, Registry of Deeds and LBP on the anomalous land titling that leads to the displacement of farmers and IPs;

4. Stop foreclosure and investigate and prosecute those who are the main perpetrators and involved in the anomalous land titling;

5. Immediately pursue reversion proceedings and cancellation of land titles that were acquired through fraudulent means and misrepresentation;

6. That agricultural support and subsidies be adequately provided by the national government agencies (NGAs) and local government units (LGUs) to ensure farmers and indigenous peoples’ farming productivity;

7. Support the development and promotion of indigenous and sustainable farm practices that utilizes traditional varieties;

8. Pass an ordinance (provincial and municipal governments) that would provide a living wage for agricultural workers including sacadas; and

9. Ensure public consultations/hearings and information disclosure be conducted in the communities affected by the project. ###

GerryAlbert is based in Manila, National Capital Region, Philippines, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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