“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.