[Press Release] No real development in large-scale agricultural plantations – CTUHR

No real development in large-scale agricultural plantations – CTUHR

Following the launch of a network fighting against the expansion of the large-scale agricultural plantations in Mindanao, labor group Center for Trade Union and Human Rights said that operations and continuing expansion of large-scale agricultural plantations in the country did not bring development to the people living in plantations but have instead kept communities mired in poverty and destitution.

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Last Oct. 28, Resist Expansion of Agricultural Plantations in Mindanao or REAP Mindanao Network was launched at the Benitez Hall Auditorium in the University of the Philippines, Diliman. The main convenors of the network include CTUHR, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-National, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Region, Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.

“In contrast to the promise of the government and industry players that agri-business plantations will deliver inclusive growth and development to the people in the countryside, workers, farmers, indigenous peoples and their communities in plantations especially in Mindanao are still living in poverty and insecurity. If indeed agri-business plantations can alleviate poverty, then how come the poorest provinces in the country can be found in Mindanao where these plantations are concentrated and ever expanding?” Daisy Arago, Executive Director of CTUHR said.

Based on data from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, roughly 500,000 ha of land in Mindanao are planted with agri-plantation crops. About 94 percent of land area planted with agri-business crops like rubber, palm oil, cacao, banana Cavendish, and pineapple and 21 percent of sugarcane plantations in the country can be found in Mindanao. In contrast, nine of the 15 poorest provinces can also be found in the island.

“The purported returns and benefits from agri-business plantations to the communities are not commensurate to the loss of livelihood among the farmers and indigenous people who are constantly displaced, dispossessed of their lands or forced to convert into planting agri-plantation crops with the entry of big agri-business corporations,” Arago added.

The group noted that agrarian reform beneficiaries, farmers, and indigenous groups are swayed or forcibly convinced to lease their land for as long as 25 years to agro-corporations with the promise that their situation will be better off when they become wage laborers for corporate plantations. “But in reality, plantation workers end up receiving very low wages, sometimes less than half of the already meager minimum wage rates set by the wage boards for plantation workers,” Arago averred.

Wages for plantation workers in Mindanao vary across region between P235 to P307 a day. Casual and contract workers in oil palm and banana plantations get as low as P120 to P150 for eight to twelve hours of work according to group’s previous researches.

“Employment generation is also not sufficient and women in these plantations are often left without livelihood. Worse, most of the jobs in plantations are precarious in nature as multinational agri-business companies prefer to hire contractual employee while small farm growers who sell their produce to big industry players can only hire seasonal workers at cheaper rates because they already at the bottom of the supply chain and are thus paid very low for their produce,” Arago added.

Another concrete manifestation of underdevelopment in communities in plantations is the presence and high incidence of child labor. Based on the CTUHR’s survey published last October 2012, at least one of every four worker in oil palm plantations is aged below 18 years old. A study by the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER) this year also revealed that child laborers continue to exist in banana plantations in Davao del Norte and sugarcane plantations in Bukidnon.

Based on gathered information from industry groups and government pronouncements, over 500,000 hectares more of land in Mindanao are target for plantation expansion.

“It is clear that the agri-plantations benefit only businesses and multinational companies. The persistence and further expansion of plantations in Mindanao will definitely spell more misery than improvement of already marginalized communities,” Arago noted.

CTUHR also said that growing cases of extra-judicial killings, human rights violations and intensified militarization of communities in Mindanao is strongly linked to the plunder of the island’s resources through large-scale plantations and mining. Last Sept 1, a massacre in Lianga Surigao del Sur highlighted the violent attacks on lumad communities who are defending their ancestral domain and way life from the intrusion of multinational companies. It is estimated that about 40,000 lumads have become refugees because of heightened militarization in Mindanao.

“We stand with the people of Mindanao in demanding to stop the expansion of corporate agricultural plantations in Mindanao. We condemn the militarization and war for plunder in Mindanao and we reiterate our call for justice to all victims of human rights violations committed against the lumad and Mindanao people,” Arago said.###

For reference: Daisy Arago, CTUHR Executive Director, (+632) 411.0256, (+632).916.248.4876

30 October 2015

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