“Because of oil palm plantations we are becoming poorer and poorer. New pests have spread from the plantations and have destroyed thousands of coconuts, our only source of income. Now, we have nothing to sell, nothing to feed our children” -- Sulinda Lukis
The government of Palawan province, the “Philippines’ Last Frontier”, claims that oil palm monocultures will eradicate poverty and reduce economic dependence from imported edible oils. But, from the perspective of the local indigenous people, oil palm expansion is a tragedy since it destroys their ancestral lands and forest products, thus impoverishing them to an unprecedented level.
According to Palawan elder Suidi Taiban: “Before, you could hear a lot of birds singing in this place. It was common to see porcupines and quails hiding into the grass. Now there is silence here, birds have disappeared, there is nothing to collect, no more medicinal plants, no more bamboo and buri leaves for basketry, no more wood for building our own houses. Everything is gone, the only thing you can see are oil palms.”
The bulk of oil palm operations are being carried out by the Palawan Palm & Vegetable Oil Mills Inc. and its sister company Agumil Philippines Inc. As of now, about 15,000 hectares of land are being converted into oil palm plantations.
While the electoral campaign is ongoing, local politicians should take concrete actions to really prove that they are concerned about the future of Palawan UNESCO Man & Biosphere Reserve. They should stop oil palm expansion now before its adverse socio-ecological impact becomes irreversible.
Dear Honorable Governor and honorable PCSD members,
I am deeply concerned about the research findings of a recent study carried out by ALDAW (Ancestral Land/Domain Watch) in Southern Palawan. This shows that oil palm development is impoverishing local indigenous communities while destroying biological diverse environments.
I understand that, in some Municipalities, oil palm expansion is taking place at the expenses of forest, farmland and productive coconut groves without the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of the indigenous inhabitants. In view of these considerations, I believe that the ‘HEAT program’ launched by the Provincial Government to heighten health, education, energy, environment, agriculture and tourism should be urgently reoriented towards the needs of everyday people rather than towards the interests of corporations and private entrepreneurs.
There is also evidence that oil palms are being planted on a large scale, not only in so-called “multiple/manipulative use areas”, but also in “restricted”, “controlled use areas” and “traditional use areas”. This is in blatant contradiction with the rules and regulations contained in the Strategic Environmental Plan (Republic Act 7611).
I urge the PCSD to ascertain for itself the social acceptability of oil palm plantations schemes by local residents, especially indigenous peoples, as it is provided by the Council’s own rules (Section 6 of a letter dated April 21 and 22, 2010). Several impacted indigenous communities have already filed their own notarized affidavits against oil palm expansion on their ancestral land. Therefore, the granted SEP clearance for the Integrated Palm Oil Processing Project in Maasin (Municipality of Brooke’s Point) should be revoked immediately.
I further urge the concerned authorities to investigate the activities of the Cavite Ideal International Construction and Development Corporation (CAVDEAL), and of private investors (Mr. Cho), which have now turned into land grabbers and are pushing their business into the territories of the local Palawan tribes.
I also urge the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to freeze all Environmental Clear Certificates (ECCs) released, so far, in connection with oil palm operations. More importantly, I recommend the removal of oil palms planted by Agumil Philippines Inc. (AGPI) into illegally cleared forest and the reforestation of the depleted areas with endemic species.
Finally, I urge the Provincial Government to impose a moratorium on biofuels programs and oil palm development until reliable environmental cost-benefit analysis can identify, quantify, and compare the alleged economic benefits of oil palm development with its current environmental and social costs.