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Report of the International Fact Finding Mission May 29th-June 6th 2011 San Mariano, Isabela, Philippines

For close to a century, peasants in the Philippines have been organizing to defend their lands from being grabbed by foreign agribusiness corporations. However, this struggle for land and livelihood in rural areas has intensified over the past five years, as a race to establish plantations of “green oases” for agrofuel development and agro-industrial crops for export has been initiated by foreign companies from Japan, South Korea, China and the Arab world. Communities of small farmers, fisherfolk and indigenous people are being displaced, while food insecurity and hunger are increasing—particularly amongst marginalized rural populations. The ecological balance of forests, watersheds and grasslands and the associated natural buffering system against climate change are all being undermined in this process. Yet, despite widespread public concern, these foreign land acquisitions are taking place under a veil of secrecy and with the complicity of influential international institutions, elected officials and national government mandated agencies. In order to investigate an urgent and ongoing case of land grabbing that has been prompted by the development of an 11,000 hectare agrofuel project in San Mariano, an upland municipality in the Isabela province of the Philippines, an international fact finding mission was conducted by the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty and IBON International, in collaboration with the Asian Peasant Coalition and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, upon the request of the local organization of small-scale farmers, Danggayan Dagiti Mannalon ti Isabela, with the support of Action Solidarité Tiers Monde.

Through interviews with local peasants, indigenous people, representatives of civil society organizations, government officials and corporate spokespeople, the IFFM helped to provide a contextualized understanding of some of the devastating impacts of foreign land acquisitions on affected communities of small food producers in the Philippines. The findings of this research demonstrate that after only acquiring 3,000 hectares of land, the Japanese- Filipino consortium of companies backing the San Mariano bio-fuel project, Green Future Innovations Inc., is already exacerbating land grabbing conflicts and socio-economic inequities as well as undermining food self-sufficiency by:

  • advancing claims that lands rightfully cultivated by peasants and recognized as indigenous peoples’ ancestral territories are available for conversion into sugar cane plantations;
  • engaging in non-transparent lease negotiations that result in lands being grabbed from the people who till the soil;
  • promoting flagrant violations of contractual commitments under the Socialized Industrial Forestry Management Agreements by facilitating the growing of sugar cane on these lands;
  • leasing land from peasants through exploitative contracts which offer compensation at a substantially lower rate than would be earned if they continued to cultivate the land and sell their produce of rice, corn and bananas at local markets;
  • threatening the food security and the livelihoods of farm workers who are now planting sugar cane under highly exploitative conditions; and
  • aggravating environmental devastation and destroying the natural climate change mitigation capacities of local ecosystems.

Overall, the intensified land conflicts and food insecurity caused by foreign land acquisitions as revealed in this report are indicative of the situation of rural peoples across the Philippines who are confronting land grabbing and the corresponding threats to their rights to land, livelihood and life.

Download International Fact Finding Mission Report

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