Duterte to “choose investors” to develop Lumad lands for oil palm, mining

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 02 February) — Addressing an Indigenous Peoples Leaders’ Summit inside a military camp on Thursday, President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to personally choose the investors who would develop their ancestral domains that are presently under the influence of the New People’s Army (NPA).

He said Lumads may want oil palm and other agriculture-based projects or, if they agree, go into a mining partnership.

Duterte asked for a map showing the distribution of Lumads (Indigenous Peoples) in NPA-influenced areas and said “ako na mismo” (I will personally)… “ako na’y mamili sa investor” (I will choose the investor), he told the Panagtagbo alang sa Kalinaw ug Kalambuan (Gathering for Peace and Progress): An Indigenous Peoples Leaders’ Summit, at the covered court of Camp Panacan.

“Ako na mismo para walang graft and corruption,” he said.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte chats with the guests during the Indigenous Peoples (IPs) Leaders’ Summit at the Naval Station Felix Apolinario in Panacan, Davao City on February 1, 2018. Also in the photo is National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. RICHARD MADELO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

He pointed to where the Lumads in NPA-influenced areas: the Manobo, Ata, Matigsalug “dito sa bandang Apo, Talomo Mountain” and Manobo and Higaonon in Andap Valley Complex in Surigao del Sur.

He said the Manobo and Higaonon Lumads in “Kitanglad mountain (in Bukidnon),  Loreto, San Juan,  Esperanza” in Agusan del Sur (there is no San Juan in Agusan Sur but San Luis, San Francisco and Santa Josefa), may, if they agree, enter into a partnership with mining firms while B’laans in Malapatan, Alabel and Maitum in Sarangani may want to focus on agriculture.

He acknowledged that government has neglected the Lumads but he is trying to find a way.  “Karon, gitagaan mo’g ancestral domain. Ang problema, wala ninyo gamita” (You were given your ancestral domain. The problem is, you didn’t use it), he said.

He said he is aware of fighting within the tribes over prospective investors.  “I’m just being brutally frank with you.”

“Tinuod man na because it is owned in common. Wala’y individual titles ang ancestral home” (It’s true because it commonly owned. There are no individual titles for ancestral home), he said.

“Pero ug mag sige lang mo’g samok, wala gyu’y mahitabo. So ako’y mamili sa investor” (But if you keep on fighting, nothing will happen. So I will choose the investor), the President said.

In a statement, Jerome Succor Aba, co-chair of Sandugo Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-Determination, said “it is your government and the corporations that are making trouble.”

Oil palm, Mining

Duterte, who served as mayor of Davao City for 22 years, recalled how Paquibato district, an area considered to be held by the NPA, would have been developed now as investors wanted to put up an oil palm plantation there.

He said the people of Paquibato objected to the entry of oil palm allegedly because it will affect the water supply. But Duterte asked: “Unsaon man diay ang tubig? Pasagdan lang nimo na sa ilalom sa yuta? Ug makatabang nato na?” (What will we do with the water? Leave it under ground? What if that can help us?).

“What’s the valid reason for disallowing the planting of (oil palm)?” Duterte asked., adding palm oil has many uses, among them for biodiesel.

“So ako na’y mangita ug investor. Muingon mo’g dili mo’g mina, eh ‘di dili. Wa’y mina. Ug muingon mo’g gihugaw-hugawan ang inyong lugar, barahon nato” (So I will look for an investor. If you say you don’t like mining, then there will be no mining. If you say they are polluting your area, we will prevent them).

Duterte said Manobo and Higaonons in “Kitanglad mountain, Loreto, San Juan, Esperanza” can go into partnership with mining firms, if they agree.

“Imposibleng ‘di pud ka mag-mina.  Pero muingon mo’g dili mo, dili nako pugson. So ibawal nako. So mag-istorya ta” (It is impossible not to mine. But if you don’t like, I will not force you. I will not allow it. So let’s talk), he said, as he called on Housing Secretary Eduardo del Rosario.

Del Rosario, concurrent chair of Task Force Bangon Marawi, organized the Lumad leaders during his stint as commander of the 73rd Infantry Battalion, 1003rd Infantry Brigade and Task Force Davao.

Under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, entry of development projects requires the Lumads’ Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) which means the consensus of all members of the IPs or Lumads, to be determined “in accordance with their respective customary laws and practices, free from any external manipulation, interference and coercion, and obtained after fully disclosing the intent and scope of the activity, in a language an process understandable to the community.”

Ancestral domains are communal property that “belongs to all generations and therefore cannot be sold, disposed or destroyed” and covers “sustainable traditional resource rights.”
Duterte asked the Lumads to tell them what they need. “If you want agriculture alone,” Duterte said, he would have 100 million pesos released the next day (Friday).

MindaNews checked with Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol on the 100 million pesos and what crops will be planted where. Pinol has yet to send his reply as of 6 pm Friday.

The Paquibato Initiative

But Pinol, who had been pushing for oil palm projects since he was Governor of North Cotabato (1998 to 2007), had earlier been tapped by then Mayor Duterte to design the oil palm project for Paquibato, referred to as “The Paquibato Initiative.”

Pinol posted on July 26, 2014 on his Facebook wall that “Duterte’s dream of turning the troubled and poverty-stricken Paquibato District into a vast Oil Palm production area owned by the people themselves received a boost from a Malaysian Oil Palm expert who said the soil in the area is ideal for the crop.”

Pinol wrote that Malaysian Oil Palm expert Siew King Han who has been involved in the industry for 40 years and who helped North Cotabato establish its Oil Palm industry, visited Paquibato and reported to Mayor Duterte that “the soil type in this area is ideal for Oil Palm farming” and that the soil quality is “much better than most.”

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte receives a report from Malaysian Oil Palm consultant Siew King Han on the Paquibato soil suitability assessment as former North Cotabato Gov. Manny Pinol looks on. Photo by Kiwi Bulaclac. Posted as accompanying photo to Pinol’s FB post on July 26, 2014.

“Han’s favorable assessment of the soil quality visibly pleased the City Mayor who later vowed to allocate funds to support the project which aims to turn at least 4,000 hectares of the area, largely believed to be controlled by the New People’s Army (NPA), into an Oil Palm production field which will provide income and employment to the people who own the land,” Pinol wrote.

Pinol designed the partnership scheme where the city government will initiate the project through a Plant-Now-Pay-Later program, providing planting materials to the landowners.

“The landowners, on the other hand, will allow an Oil Palm investment group composed of local businessmen who are supportive of Duterte’s development initiative to develop the area. The investors’ group will provide the technical support, fertilizers and pay the wages of the farm owners or their children who will work in the development of the Oil Palm farms,” he said.

The investors’ group will also establish a Crude Palm Oil Mill to process the fruits produced from the Paquibato area, he added.

Pinol quoted Duterte as saying to the crowd that gathered for the public forum on The Paquibato Initiative: “We have been killing each other for so many years. It is now time for us to have peace and work to improve our lives. This was my promise to you – I will not rest until we have achieved peace and progress. I will allocate funds to ensure that you will have livelihood projects during the years when you are waiting for your Oil Palm to bear fruit. I promise you the City Government will not impose taxes on your farms while you are recovering but I also ask the NPA not to impose revolutionary taxes on the people,” he said.

Duterte called off the peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF) in November last year. The NDF represents the Communist Party of the Philippines and the NPA in the peace negotiations.

In Deecember, Duterte issued a proclamation declaring the CPP nad NPA as terrorist organizations.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)