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Support Peasants and Indigenous Peoples to Stop Land Grabbing in Isabela, Philippines

Esta petición en español.

To the following authorities:

President Benigno S. Aquino III, Malacañang Palace, Manila
Hon. Proceso J. Alcala, Secretary, Department of Agriculture, Q.C.
Atty. Virgilio R. Delos Reyes, Secretary, Department of Agrarian Reform, Q.C.
Hon. Ramon Jesus P. Paje, Secretary, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Q.C.
Hon. Mark Mendoza, Chairperson, Committee on Agriculture and Food, House of Representatives, Q.C.
Hon. Pryde Teves, Chairperson, Committee on Agrarian Reform, House of Representatives, Q.C.            
Hon. Francisco Matugas, Chairperson, Committee on Natural Resources, House of Representatives, Q.C.
Hon. Rene Relampagos, Chairperson, Committee on Human Rights, House of Representatives, Q.C. Hon. Kiko Pangilinan, Chairperson, Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, Pasay City
Hon. Gregorio B. Honasan, Chairperson, Senate Committee on Agrarian Reform, Pasay City
Hon. Juan Miguel F. Zubiri, Chairperson, Senate Committee on Environment & Natural Resources, Pasay City Hon. Francis Escudero, Chairperson, Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, Pasay City
Atty. Roque Agton, Chairperson, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Q.C.  
Governor Faustino Dy III, Province of Isabela, Cauayan, Isabela
Mayor Edgar Go, Municipality of San Marino, San Mariano, Isabela
President & CEO Gilda E. Pico, Land Bank of the Philippines, Manila


CC:  Mr. R. P. Bantug, President, Green Future Innovations, Pasig
Mr. L. Villa-Abrille, Plant General Manager / Consultant, Green Future Innovations, Cauayan, Isabela
Mr. J. E. Tampo, Vice-President for Operations, Ecofuel Land Development Inc., Cauayan, Isabela
Mr. M. Okafuji, President & Chief Executive Officer, ITOCHU Corporation, Tokyo, Japan
Mr. K. Takeuchi, Chairman and CEO, JGC Corporation, Yokohama, Japan

 

Your attention is called upon to urgently address the concerns raised by the recent International Fact-Finding Mission by the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS), IBON International, Asian Peasant Coalition (APC), Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Danggayan Dagiti Mannalon ti Isabela (DAGAMI) on the impacts of the bio-ethanol project of the Japanese-Filipino corporate consortium Green Future Innovations, Inc. (GFII) in San Mariano, Isabela on peasant and Indigenous Peoples’ land rights and livelihoods, on food security, food self-sufficiency and the state of the environment

The biofuel project is proposed to become operational by March 2012, with the processing plant, nurseries and monocrop sugarcane plantations spanning across 11,000 hectares of prime agricultural lands and forest restoration areas. These lands are the primary source of livelihood for thousands of farmers in San Mariano and neighbouring towns who harvest indigenous rice crops, and corn varieties, vegetables, and a range of fruits. Many families lack documented proof of land ownership due to the government’s non-recognition of their land rights as long term and original occupants/cultivators. Instead, government authorities are requiring that they pay unjust and unaffordable fees for the land, and subsequently delivering foreclosure notices. The entry of the bio-ethanol project has made these communities increasingly vulnerable to land grabbing, land speculation schemes and fraudulent titling schemes. Ultimately, displacement of many of these local residents is an inevitable reality if the project continues to proceed. 

The biofuel operation, consisting of thousands of hectares of monocrop sugarcane, will significantly reduce the food production capacity of the community, the diversity of seeds that are of unique significance to the local culture, and cause further encroachment of forest and protected areas, including the Sierra Madre Natural Park as well as the Palanan Wilderness. The conversion of lands once allotted for diverse cropping and forest cover will lead to significant carbon emissions and biodiversity loss, and would increase the vulnerability of the area to landslides and flooding.

Displaced farmers who become farm workers are experiencing severe violations of labour rights, including wages well below the mandated minimum wage, being required to spray toxic fertilizers and pesticides without any safety equipment, severe occupational-related injuries, and no access to any medical or social welfare benefits.

The increasing presence of soldiers and military camps in residential areas of San Mariano where there is growing opposition to the biofuel project is a direct violation of the Comprehensive Agreement for the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAHRIHL). This situation must be addressed with urgency, especially in light of the reported human rights abuses against residents who are opposed to the bio-ethanol project.

Based on the outcome of the international fact finding mission, all concerned authorities are called upon to take immediate action to:

  1. Listen to the farmers’, farm workers’, and Indigenous Peoples’ demands to recognize and respect their human rights, in particular their rights to till and own their land free of the threats of anomalous land titling and land grabbing. For these rights to be upheld, affected residents of San Mariano are calling for the implementation of genuine agrarian reform.

  2. Conduct urgent investigations into widespread anomalous land titling, land grabbing, and the encroachment of protected ecological areas in the region. Support affected farmers and Indigenous People in seeking justice by establishing effective mechanisms to expedite the prosecution of the implicated perpetrators.

  3. Uphold the rights of Indigenous Peoples to their ancestral domain, their traditional systems of knowledge and governance which are threatened by the bio-ethanol project, and rights to Free, Prior and Informed Consent as per international and national law.

  4. Withdraw all state support and endorsement of Ecofuel and the GFII operations in Isabela, including the pending approval as a Clean Development Mechanism project. Withdraw support for any other initiatives in the area that turn prime agricultural land used by small-scale land holders cultivating food into areas for non-food production.  

  5. Removal of all military detachments and camps from all communities in San Mariano, in compliance with provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement for the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAHRIHL). All perpetrators of human rights abuses, including those who harass any community members and allies opposing the biofuel project, must be prosecuted.

It is trusted that all government authorities will take these concerns seriously and respond proactively with the urgency required, and that your assurance will be forthcoming in these matters. Your actions in this regard will be observed closely.

Sincerely,


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People's Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS)
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P.O. Box 1170, 10850 Penang, Malaysia
Tel: 604-6570271/6560381 Fax: 604-6583960

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