Statement with the Farming Families of Buffalo-Tamaraw-Limus
June 28, 2011
The Peoples’ Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS) - a growing international network of grassroots groups of small food producers and their allies - expresses staunch solidarity with the families of subsistence farmers living in Maramag, Bukidnon, who are facing forcible eviction from the lands they rely upon for their livelihoods due to the plans of Davao Ventures Corporation (DAVCO) for plantations of pineapples and bananas, hen houses and hog farming.
In particular, PCFS notes the courageous stance of the members of the Buffalo-Tamaraw-Limus (BTL) Association and BTL Women’s Association to defend the 400 hectares of land they have collectively cultivated for over three decades, growing rice and garden vegetables. PCFS commends their determination to continue to till the lands with their families, and to demand respect for their livelihood and basic human rights through protest pickets - despite brutal harassment by security guards hired by the Central Mindanao University (CMU) and members of the paramilitary Civilian Auxiliary Geographical Forces Unit (CAFGU).
PCFS condemns the use of armed security and CAFGU forces to intimidate and harm members of the BTL communities, including the reported incidences of gun shots being aimed at farmers, the harassment of peasant advocates, and the destruction of farm tools. The perpetrators - including individuals in the CMU administration providing direction to the eviction orders - must be held accountable for the grave violations of the farmers’ rights to life, security of person and civil as well as political freedoms, and be duly prosecuted. The national Government of the Philippines has a responsibility to intervene immediately and ensure that the harassment does not continue. Furthermore, since the farming families are the rightful beneficiaries of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) administered under the Cory Aquino Government, their rights as a community to till the land should be upheld.
The struggles of the BTL families are a testament to the need for there to be national genuine agrarian reform, in which land must be redistributed to be in the hands of the tillers themselves, and serve the food needs of all Filipinos. Displacing the farmers for developments of large-scale plantations for fruit exports on CMU lands will not contribute to food security. Instead, profits will be directed towards corporations, and will provide neither food security nor significant incomes to local communities. Meanwhile, the trend of evicting subsistence farmers to hand over land to corporate growers - which PCFS notes is in fact becoming increasingly normalized throughout the country - contributes to an unsustainable pattern of reliance on food imports, ecologically destructive mono-cropping farming that uses heavy inputs of chemical fertilizers, intensive water-use, and dispossession of local people. Greater hunger, dire poverty, desperation and intensified conflicts over land are all inevitable consequences of this situation.
PCFS asserts that CMU and the Aquino Administration must heed the demands of all affected families of the BTL communities, and take urgent, immediate remedial action to respect their rights, upholding principles of social, economic, political, environmental, gender and land justice. Finally, PCFS supports the demands of the BTL communities for the withdrawal of armed security from the vicinity; for expedited proceedings to address the human rights violations committed against them; for dealings with DAVCO to be re-assessed; and for the disputed land to be committed to the tillers who rely upon it for the basis of their very survival.