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1.Title & Name

Oil palm plantation conflicts in the Philippines
2. Background information:

2.1 Generic information about the conflict:

Palawan is an island province of the Philippines that has great and picturesque beauty and biological value. In 1990, UNESCO declared the island the status of “Man and Biosphere Reserve”. One of agribusiness activities in the province is the establishment of oil palm plantation aiming to give livelihood to the residents of Palawan Island. In 2002, the Philippine government decided to expand palm oil cultivation for reduction of imports and meet the country’s demand for domestic consumption. Despite these aims, the people of Palawan have united to address their existing problem with companies that are leasing their land for plantation. The residents are claiming that the oil palm companies have grabbed their land. The petition was signed by more than 4,200 farmers and indigenous people and submitted on September 2014 to the Coalition against Land Grabbing.


2.2 . Conflict type:

The situation is a legal conflict since the landowners claim that contract details were not discussed with them and also were hidden from them. In addition, farmers also claim that new previously unknown agronomic problems have surfaced, and the application of herbicide and pesticide affects nearby crops making it a land use conflict as well.


2.3. Resources involved

According to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, Philippine oil palm production has been expanding at 7.62 percent annually coming from an area of 38,599 hectares in 2008 to 53,014 in 2012. The oil palm is being processed to various marketable products such as palm kernel oil which compete with coconut oil quality with it lauric acid content. The industry is promising to alleviate poverty and armed conflict through large investments from Malaysian, Indonesian and Singaporean firms and other foreign and domestic companies, as well as the revenue brought by palm oil’s increasing demand as a food and cosmetic ingredient, and biofuels.

 

 

Figure 1. A large palm oil plantation in southern Palawan

Figure 2. Primary forest displaced for palm oil production in Palawan.

3. Evaluation of the conflict

3.1. Main Issues and descriptions:

It was around 2007 when two palm oil companies started to talk and made a deal with Palawan landowners to lease their farm and forest land in return for a share of the income from the palm oil profits. However, after four years of harvest the participating cooperatives never received any payment from the established plantations. Moreover, the title deeds for the land were handed over to the company for safekeeping. The company used the farmers’ land title deeds as collateral to the Land Bank of the Philippines (a government lender) to secure the loans used to set up the plantations. The cost for the plantation establishment were billed to the farmers’ incurring 14 percent interest annually. Farmers complain that many of the contractual details were kept hidden. In addition to this conflict is the farmers observation on the emergence of agronomic problems since the establishment of vast area of palm oil plantation. Palm requires and absorbs high quantity of water, also, the company applies high level of herbicide and pesticide, thus affecting the neighbouring crops. It limits the farmers to plant other crops near the plantation.


3.2. Main stakeholders involved (ENGOs, companies, associations... and their role in the conflict)

  • Six municipalities in central and southern Palawan: the target area for oil palm development spans the municipalities of Aborlan, Narra, Quezon, Sofronio Española, Brooke’s Point, Rizal and Bataraza.
  • Aldaw Indigenous Network (Ancestral Land/Domain Watch): started online campaign for oil palm expansion
  • Palawan Palm & Vegetable Oil Mills, Incorporated (PPVOMI) and Agumil Philippines, Incorporated (AGPI): Two major palm oil companies operate in Palawan. AGPI has established a palm oil mill in the Municipality of Brooke’s Point for the processing of plantation harvests.
  • Farm and Forest landowners, and Indigenous People tribes: lease their land to the companies.
  • Coalition against Land Grabbing (CALG): an NGO galvanizing resistance to the palm oil companies.
  • Land Bank of the Philippines: a government lender
  • Palawan Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Committee for Sustainable Development (CSD): government office that are responsible for properly enforcing the Strategic Environment Plan regulations restricting land clearance.
  • Palawan Palm Oil Industry Development Council (PPOIDC), a multi-agency body tasked with promoting the palm oil sector in Palawan and ensuring that developments

3.3. Analysis of the stakeholders values and interests

The indigenous people (IP) and farmers of the six municipalities just wanted to make use of their land for livelihood, secure their families’ future and improve their standard of living as the involved company promised them shared profit. On the other hand, the company is only interested to meet their 20,000 hectares target and increase their profit. Disappointingly, concerned government institution is lacking support and seems to neglect the concern of IPs and farmers of the island.
3.4. Evaluation of the intensity of the conflict:

The Indigenous People and farmers call for a moratorium on oil palm expansion in Palawan, a local protest. CALG submitted a petition signed by 4,200 farmers and indigenous residents to the Palawan Vice-Governor. In this regard, if the oil palm plantation continues to expand, the livelihood of small farmers and IPs will be in jeopardy.
3.5. Evaluation of the possible causes of the conflict:

Poor government action, monitoring and evaluation is one of the possible cause of this conflict. The government office, DENR Palawan and CSD, should’ve properly enforced the environmental plan before clearing the lease for the plantation establishment. Also, the implementing regulations towards land leasing of local farmers and IPs is limited.
3.6. Main elements that may preclude conflict resolution

Government institution should actively investigate and evaluate the situation with legal measures. The cooperatives and companies should compromise and amend their technical and management agreements in a way that both parties completely understand the terms and conditions written in the document. Moreover, the bank should also act and make plans for the communities’ livelihood that was affected by the palm oil projects they financed.
3.7. Main elements that may encourage conflict escalation

The companies may claim that they discussed the contract details with the Tribe and farmer cooperative Representatives. And can be validated through signatures on the contract. The conflict between these two parties is not in favour to the landowners. Many of the farmers thinking about the increasing debt to the bank which might result to not seeing their land again.

4. Keywords and identifiers of the conflict

Palawan, Philippines, plantation, oil palm, indigenous people
5. References

[1] Broken Promises: Communities on Philippine island take on palm oil companies. (2015, November 04). Retrieved from https://news.mongabay.com/2015/10/broken-promises-communities-on-philippine-island-take-on-palm-oil-company/

[2] Indigenous Peoples and farmers from Palawan in the Philippines submit a petition -signed by more than 4,200 people- to the government calling for a moratorium on oil palm expansion province wide – Press Release. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://wrm.org.uy/other-relevant-information/indigenous-peoples-and-farmers-from-palawan-in-the-philippines-submit-a-petition-signed-by-more-than-4200-people-to-the-government-calling-for-a-moratorium-on-oil-palm-expansion-province-wide-pre/

[3] Philippine palm oil plan 'equals corruption and land-grabbing,' critics say. (2017, August 31). Retrieved from https://news.mongabay.com/2017/08/philippine-palm-oil-plan-equals-corruption-and-land-grabbing-critics-say/

[4] Filipino company mulls 10,000-hectare oil palm plantation in Palawan. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://newsbits.mb.com.ph/2016/11/08/filipino-company-mulls-10000-hectare-oil-palm-plantation-in-palawan/


 

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