Lands and livelihoods of farmers at risk, says peasant group
THE Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) and the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas or Peasant Movement of the Philippines (KMP) disclosed that 44,000 hectares of Bukidnon’s agricultural lands have been offered to big pineapple plantations such as Del Monte Phils and MD Davao Agri Ventures Inc.
“Bukidnon is considered by many to be the food basket of Mindanao in the Philippines because it is the major producer of rice and corn in the region”, Rahmat Ajiguna, APC deputy secretary general, said
Del Monte Phils is a subsidiary of the Del Monte Pacific (DMPL) Group whose products are sold all over the world – including Asia Pacific, North America, Europe, Middle East and Africa. Currently, it has 23,000-hectare pineapple plantation in the Philippines and 700,000-ton processing capacity. While MD Davao Agri Ventures Inc. is a subsidiary of Marsman-Drysdale Agribusiness Holding, Inc. (MDAHI), the holding firm of all the agribusiness ventures of the Marsman-Drysdale Group.
“Farmers in barangays (villages) Butong, Merangiran, San Jose, Salawagan, Mibantang, Sta. Cruz, Kiburiao and Puntian all in the municipality of Quezon risk losing their farms – their only source of living – to pineapple plantations operated by Del Monte Phils and MD Davao Agri Ventures Inc,” . stated Danilo Menente, Chairperson of Kahugpungan sa mga Mag-uuma sa Bukidnon (KASAMA-Bukidnon). The KASAMA-Bukidnon is a provincial chapter of KMP.
“The problem began when Del Monte Phils Inc. set up a high capacity canning facility in Baranggay San Jose, Quezon. To make it run on full capacity, the facility needs a larger supply base, hence, the expansion,” added Menente.
Government propaganda says that agribusiness plantations are development efforts aimed at eradicating rural poverty.
But Antonio Flores, KMP national council member, disproved it. “Apart from landgrabbing and loss of livelihoods for the farmers, these agri-TNCs employ one member per family to work in the plantation. Unfortunately, they are subjected to inhumane labour practices.”
“An example is the situation of the KISMUCO (Kiantig Services Multi-purpose Cooperative) workers. They are employed as contractual workers with no union rights and earning below the minimum wage, “ Flores remarked.
“The expansion of pineapple plantations in the province threatens the area’s established sugar industry. For so long, the farmers have been asking for lands to till yet the Aquino government is giving vast tracts of agricultural lands to agri-TNCs, ” stressed Ajiguna.
“The need to achieve food security is also being used by governments and agri-TNCs to justify the increasing land conversions and landgrabbing. In this sense, food security is narrowly addressed by promoting corporate agriculture instead of strengthening and developing the country’s agriculture to provide food for the population in a sustainable manner,” ended Ajiguna.
The groups called on the government for the implementation of genuine agrarian reform program that will break the monopoly and control of big landlords and big agri-TNCs over vast tracts of lands.
The KMP is pushing for the enactment of the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill, which seeks the “free distribution of land to the tillers.