Rural missionaries uneasy with palm plantations in Mindanao

Published by rudy Date posted on May 17, 2015

A group of Catholic rural missionaries is concerned over what might happen to farmers, indigenous peoples and the environment if oil palm plantations are allowed to expand “unbridled” in Mindanao.

The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Sub-Region sought better engagement by government leaders, companies and stakeholders.

“Critical issues surrounding oil palm must be effectively tackled with urgency in light of the irreversible ecological impact that will affect future generations,” it said in a joint statement with the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights and the Hong Kong-based Asia Monitor Resource Centre, according to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines news site.

According to the groups, conversion of land for oil palm could affect people’s access to food and land ownership.

They added 30 years of the palm oil industry “only proved broken promises of development, livelihood, and food security.”

While they said palm oil plantations in the Philippines made expansion through land accumulation, this got more aggressive in the past years.

“Oil palm plantations forced their way into these communities without respect for indigenous peoples’ ancestral domain, desecrating ancestral burial sites and other important aspects of indigenous peoples’ tradition and culture,” they said.

Also, they claimed “militarization has spawned at an alarming spate” of abuse of civil and political rights.

While those opposing palm expansion have allegedly been targets of threat, harassment, and even extra-judicial killings, farmers and supposed agrarian reform beneficiaries became “landless agricultural workers,” they added.

The groups also warned against harmful agrichemicals in oil palm cultivation such as Furadan, Glyphosate and Paraquat.

Meanwhile, the groups warned against allowing foreign companies to develop a million hectares of palm oil plantations, something they said may lead to the destruction of forests, loss of biodiversity, and adding to climate change. — Joel Locsin/LBG, GMA News
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