Int’l group backs farmers’ claims of land-grabbing | Inquirer News

Int’l group backs farmers’ claims of land-grabbing

By: - Reporter / @cynchdbINQ
/ 06:16 AM June 08, 2011

An international fact-finding mission (IFFM) said it has confirmed the reported grabbing of indigenous peoples’ lands in San Mariano, Isabela, by Philippine and foreign firms that want to set up the country’s biggest bioethanol project.

“It became highly evident that residents of the area are gravely concerned about the widespread pattern of land-grabbing, militarization and intensive agro-industrial development serving the interests of agribusiness corporations,” the IFFM said in a statement it sent to the House of Representatives.

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It cited the “unequivocal concern” of local farmers cultivating small plots of corn, rice, fruit and vegetables over the “complete lack of redistributive justice in relation to agrarian reform in San Mariano, and the exacerbation of these historical injustices by the large-scale land acquisitions for monocropping of sugarcane as initiated under the Green Future Innovations Inc. (GFII).”

The IFFM inquiry, conducted from May 29 to June 3, examined the impact of the bioethanol project on the small farming communities in San Mariano.

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It confirmed earlier findings of the fact-finding mission conducted from Feb. 22 to 23 by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Danggayan Dagiti Mannalon ti Isabela (Dagami) and Rural Missionaries of the Philippines on the bioethanol project of the Japanese-Filipino corporate consortium GFII and Eco-Fuel Land Development Inc.

Composing the IFFM are Jill Richardson of Organic Consumers Association (USA), Simone Lovera of Global Forest Coalition (Paraguay), Yasuo Aonishi of Action Center for Development and Rights (Japan), Hozue Hatae of Friends of the Earth (Japan), Tanya Roberts of Philippine Solidarity Network (Canada), and from the Philippines, Feny Cosico of Agham, Edna Maguigad of Searice, Cesar Arellano of Sentra, Danilo Ramos and Wilfredo Marbella of KMP, Rhoda Gueta of APC, Cita Managuelod and Diony Yadao of Dagami.

Danilo Ramos, KMP and APC secretary general, said that a large percentage of the 11,000 hectares targeted for the plantation project are currently occupied and tilled by thousands of farmers from San Mariano and neighboring towns.

Tillers displaced

Ramos said most of the farmers were being displaced by the sugarcane plantation, including beneficiaries of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), indigenous peoples with claims to ancestral domain, and land patent holders.

“We recorded first-hand cases of how unscrupulous persons in connivance with government officials took advantage of the farmers and IPs who [know nothing] about land titling laws and engaged in fraudulent titling schemes,” Ramos said.

Facing foreclosure

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“Based on interviews and focus group discussions in San Mariano, it is important to underscore that the entry of the bioethanol project has meant that these communities have become increasingly vulnerable to land-grabbing and land speculation schemes. More so, most of [those with] certificates of land ownership awards are facing foreclosure by Land Bank,” he said.

Diony Yadao, chair of Dagami-San Mariano, said the project area of 11,000 ha has a potential crop yield of 80-90 cavans per ha for irrigated lands and 60 cavans per ha for upland rice.

If the project pushes through, it will significantly reduce the food production capacity of the community and cause further encroachment into forest areas as the farmers will have to clear new lands to farm for food,” Yadao said.

The GFII operation is scheduled to be completed by March 2012.

It is being promoted as an environmentally responsible industry that will bring an economic boom to the region, decrease the Philippines’ reliance on imported biofuels and as a unique investment that will make Isabela the site of the largest biofuel project in the country.

The IFFM, citing its findings, called on the House, Senate and Departments of Agrarian Reform, Environment and Natural Resources, and Agriculture to listen to the farmers.

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TAGS: bioethanol project, Indigenous people, Isabela, Land Grabbing, militarization
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