KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/07 June) — The communist-led New People’s Army (NPA) today owned up to the attack on Friday against an oil palm plantation in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat and accused the company of allegedly grabbing close to 1,000 hectares of land from the farmers there with help from the military.
“Landgrabbing has been facilitated by no less than the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] in collusion with local chieftains…who has no conscience about giving up B’laan ancestral domain to big landlord compradors and foreign multinational entities,” Dencio Madrigal, spokesperson of the NPA’s Valentin Palamine Regional Operations Command, said in a statement.
Madrigal said they launched the attack to defend the farmers who continue to be driven out of their lands due to the aggressive expansion of oil palm plantations in the area.
“Oppression and misery of having been forcibly eased out of their lands is just too much for the farmers who cry out for justice,” he added.
The attack took place on June 4 in Barangay Sukob, Columbio town in Sultan Kudarat province, which resulted in the burning of a backhoe, multicab and other farm equipment of the plantation owned by Johnson Ng. The rebels also took away seven horses.
Ng, a Chinese national who is reportedly based in Davao City, supplies oil palm to Agumil Phils. Inc and Kenram Industrial Development Inc, Madrigal said.
In Sukob, at least 150 families have been dispossessed of their lands and forced to find livelihood elsewhere, the NPA statement said.
Capt. Emmanuel R. Garcia, public affairs officer of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division, said the attack was motivated by extortion.
“The owner reportedly failed to pay revolutionary taxes to the NPA,” he said in an earlier statement.
“This is another proof of the consistency of their banditry and in making the people suffer. They completely coerce people into paying extortion money and sabotage them if they fail to give in to their unlawful demands,” said Maj. Gen. Carlos Holganza, 10th ID commanding general.
Holganza said the only thing the NPA rebels “are interested in is the money they can steal from legitimate businessmen, small enterprises and ordinary farmers.”
“Stealing farm animals is by far the worst expression of their banditry. The NPA has proven once again that they are the biggest extortion syndicate in the country,” the military commander said.
“Our action on June 4, 2010 is but a small reminder that the NPA will always make its stand felt against landgrabbers, corrupt military officials, despotic landlords and other exploiters of the rural folk,” Madrigal warned. (MindaNews)