Isabela Farmers, IPs Oppose Land Grabbing for Bio-Ethanol Project

By GIL CORPUZ
Northern Dispatch

SAN MARIANO, Isabela — A four-day National Fact Finding and Solidarity Mission (NFFSM) uncovered massive land grabbing here and in neighboring areas by corporations engaged in bio-ethanol project.

Spearheaded by peasant organizations: Danggayan Dagiti Mannalon ti Isabela (Dagami) and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), in cooperation with the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), the fact-finding mission was held from Feb. 20 to 24. Some 400 farmers and indigenous peoples (IPs) from 13 affected villages came to participate in the mission held in Del Pilar village of this town.

The mission report showed that a recently formed joint venture of Green Future Innovations, INC. (GFII) which consists of two big Japanese companies; ITOCHU Corporation and JGC; GCO, a Taiwanese company with local partners; will be operating the production and sale of ethanol and the sugarcane feedstock.

Ecofuel Land Development, Inc. was also set up as a separate company in partnership with GFII, to put up the nursery sites and sugarcane plantations. According to San Mariano Mayor Edgar Go, the bio-ethanol plant will be operational by March 2012.

Based on the interviews with the farmers and IPs, various schemes such as anomalous land titling, foreclosures by Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) on farmers’ land and cancellation of Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs) have recently been more aggressive and widespread. There are also cases of crop conversion from palay, corn, vegetables and fruit trees to sugarcane. The fact finding mission also noted the presence of soldiers in areas where opposition to the entry of the project is intense.

KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos said that the delegation found out that farmers and IPs have tilled their land for decades. But certain individuals have recently come out to claim ownership over their lands.

In Pannanin village, there are almost 60 cases of pending land foreclosures by LBP on CLOAs distributed to the farmers. Sacada workers themselves revealed that they only received wages ranging from P12 to P57 per day, with no food rations and wages are delayed for several weeks.

Dione Yadao, Dagami-San Mariano chairman, said that their members who are vocal on the said issues are threatened to be de-listed as recipients of conditional cash transfers (CCT) in the form of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).

According to the local government, the sugarcane plantations will only cover idle lands not previously planted with food crops. However, when the NFFSM visited the area, local testimonies revealed that these lands are currently cultivated and were traditionally planted with palay, corn and banana.

Farmers and IPs also expressed that one of the rosy promises of the land lease deal offered by the proponents of the bio-ethanol project is that a farmer who will devote his land to the production of sugarcane as feedstock will receive land rent of P20,000 per year. But in reality, it has been only a measly P5,000 per year which is not enough for the basic needs of their families. Dagami said the program has worsened the plight of the farmers and IPs of this town.

The NFFSM recommended the following:

Lands of the farmers and indigenous peoples must be returned;

The conduct of an official investigation on the reported involvement of Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Registry of Deeds and LBP in alleged anomalous land titlings that led to the displacement of farmers and IPs must be made;

Stop the foreclosures, investigate and prosecute those who are involved in the anomalous land titlings;

The immediate pursuit of reversion proceedings and cancellation of land titles that were acquired through fraudulent means and misrepresentation;

Provide agricultural support and subsidies from and by the national government agencies (NGAs) and local government units (LGUs) to ensure farmers and IP’s farming productivity;

Support the development and promotion of indigenous and sustainable farm practices that utilizes traditional varieties;

Pass an ordinance (provincial and municipal governments) that would provide a living wage for agricultural workers including sacadas; and ensure public consultations/hearings and information disclosure be conducted in the communities affected by the project. — Reposted by ()

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