Envi group to present alternatives to proposed oil palm project in Davao  

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 29 June) — Environmental group Panalipdan Southern Mindanao said Saturday it is poised to present to the City Council alternatives to proposed oil palm plantations in Paquibato and Marilog districts here.

Malaysian and Thai companies had earlier expressed interest in planting oil palm in these areas.

Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte criticized the group’s opposition to the project saying they did not suggest anything to alleviate poverty in the area. His father, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, also a staunch supporter of the project, said the opposition should suggest alternatives.

“We considered the suggestion to present alternatives to the city council,” said Belen Galleto, Panalipdan-SMR spokesperson. “In fact, we urge the government to review the perils such as what we mentioned in our (previous) statement,” she added.

In its statement, Panalipdan-SMR said that based on local and international experiences, foreign corporate-controlled palm oil plantations became drivers of social conflicts aside from causing environment degradation.

“So, it’s not likely that it’s an end-all and be-all in addressing poverty and insurgency. Indeed, it is not,” Galleto told Mindanews.

She said the group will present their alternatives to palm oil industry as soon as the City Council invites them.

Vice Mayor Duterte earlier asked why Panalipdan voiced out its objection when this was a “possible remedy” to poverty in the areas.

In response to the younger Duterte, Galleto said, “actually, the people’s movement has presented alternatives a long time ago.”

“The roadmap to address poverty and armed conflict is to address their root causes, which are mainly foreign corporate control, landlessness and agrarian injustices, and bureaucratic corruption. Instituting basic reforms such as genuine and thorough going agrarian reform and nationalist industrialization are among the alternatives presented by the people’s movement,” she said.

Such alternatives, she added are also the people’s peace agenda on peace talks between the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front. Mayor Duterte has been urging the resumption of the talks.

“Panalipdan-SMR wants to have a dialogue with the Dutertes and members of the City Council to convey our position and suggestions,” Galleto said.

The group cited workers strikes against Malaysian-controlled Agusan Plantation, Inc. (API), Filipinas Palm Oil Plantation, Inc. (FPOPI), and Agumil in Agusan del Sur in November 2012 due to poor working conditions, lack of health and other benefits, and low wages.

Panalipdan said palm oil plantation expansion “has resulted to land grabbing such as the case in Opol, Misamis Oriental wherein A. Brown Company, Inc. started to establish 2,000 hectares of oil palm farms encroaching the Higaonon’s ancestral lands.”

In addition, oil palm plantation expansion has led to land use conversion resulting to a sharp decline in food production, which according to the group is “one of the factors of rice price hikes other than the hoarding of cartels and corruption of government’s agriculture agencies.”

“In fact, Davao City is one of the major rice importers in the country due to the continuous decline of 40% of local rice production since the expansion of pesticides-dependent monocrop farms in watershed areas,” Galleto said. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro / MindaNews)