Various forms of plunder in FSMR
The suppression campaign mounted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) across the Far Southern Mindanao Region (FSMR) has been continuing for more than three years now. It launches sustained military operations in the provinces of the region to facilitate the entry and defend the plunderous activities of multinational and local agribusiness and mining companies.
Under the guise of the so-called Community Support Program, the military besieges peasant communities and forests to expedite landgrabbing. It threatens and intimidates peasants, especially those who are poor, to suppress their struggles. Those who refuse to give their lands up are accused of being terrorists and are harassed.
Landgrabbing by agribusiness companies
Agribusiness companies are aggressively expanding their plantations through various forms of landgrabbing and schemes for the production of export products. Simultaneously, mining companies have flocked to the region.
Agribusiness companies implement oppressive schemes such as the leasehold and growership systems to expand their plantations. Under the leasehold system, companies lease private or public lands, often at extremely low rates, and convert these into plantations. Growership system is a production arrangement wherein companies hire private individuals to plant specific products. Capitalists shoulder all production costs, but the farmer is obligated to sell all his produce to the company at a price determined by the capitalist.
In the case of Dole Philippines Inc. (Dolefil), local subsidiary of US-based multinational Dole Food Company, the area of its operations has already expanded to 70,000 hectares just by implementing the said schemes. The company only maintains a 9,364-hectare base plantation.
Since 2014, combat operations by the Task Force Central under the 6th ID have continued unabated in Sultan Kudarat to pave the way for the expansion of plantations. During the first year of its suppression campaign, the area covered by banana plantation operations of multinationals alone have expanded by more than seven times (from 220 hectares to 1,574). In the next three years, this grew further by 70% (to 2,677 hectares). Among those that benefitted from this are Dolefil and Sumifru Philippines Corporation (local subsidiary of Japan-based multinational Sumitomo Corp.).
Nestlé Philippines also expansively put agricultural lands under concessions for the production of coffee for export. It also has a major control over coffee production in Sultan Kudarat, which is the second biggest coffee-producing province in the country. In addition, approximately 12,000 hectares of coffee plantations are controled by the M&S Company and Silvicultural Industries Inc., companies owened by the Consunji family.
Rubber and oil palm plantations have also rapidly expanded in the past decade. The total rubber plantation area in the region grew from 31,235 hectares in 2009 to 63,500 in 2018. Approximately 91% of this or 58,000 hectares can be found in North Cotabato.
On the other hand, the total oil palm plantation area grew from 14,609 hectares in 2010 to 20,500 in 2018. Half of this or 10,105 hectares can be found in Sultan Kudarat.
Barangay Ned, in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, is one of the places that are most adversely affected by the operations of these companies. The barangay and adjacent villages are being targeted for the expansion of multinational plantations. The reactionary provincial government has even named the area as its agribusiness zone. Barangay Ned is the largest barangay in the country in terms of area and covers 41,200 hectares. It also serves as the ancestral land of Lumad tribes T’boli, Tiruray, Ubo and Manobo. Encroachment of mining companies
Gold, copper and iron reserves can be found in the region, specifically in the provinces of North Cotabato (Pigcawayan and Magpet), Sultan Kudarat (Kalamansig, Palimbang, Bagumbayan and Columbio), South Cotabato (Tampakan, Lake Sebu and T’boli) and Sarangani Province (Maitum, Kiamba, Maasim and Glan).
More than 30 multinational and local companies are already operating or processing their application for massive mining operations in the said areas. The operations of these company cover up to 224,103 hectares.
Ten of these companies have been granted contracts to operate in 63,559 hectares of land in the Region. Of these, only Sagittarius Mines Inc. was given a Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement by the reactionary government for its 28,539-hectre concession in Tampakan. (Read related article in Ang Bayan, October 7, 2019). Meanwhile, four of these companies were granted a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) each for five concessions which cover a total area of 17,439 hectares. The reactionary state also allowed four companies to conduct exploration operations in 17,579 hectares of land.
Apart from these, 27 other mining operation applications are currenty being processed and will cover 160,544 hectares of land. Four of these are applications for MPSA and will cover 10,323 hectares, while the other 23 are applications for exploration permits which will cover up to 150,221 hectares.
Landgrabbing by multinationals is also widespread in the region. In the Daguma mountain range in Sultan Kudarat, Korean multinational General Resources Co., Ltd. (GRCO) has shamelessly grabbed the mining area of small-scale miners. Its subsidiary GRCO Isulan Mining Corporation is currently operating in 4,500 hectares of land in Barangay Kinayaw, Bagumbayan.
Chinese companies Epochina Mining Corporation and Xin Lin International Mining Corporation have also encroached the area. The concessions of the said companies cover up to 4,549 hectares of land. Xin Lin Mining is a local subsidiary of the Shanghai Xin Lin International Trading Company Ltd., one of the biggest Chinese steel exporters.
The application of British multinational Alphaville Mineral Resources, Inc. for the exploration of gold, copper and silver in 16,133 hectares of land in Tulunan, North Cotabato and Columbio in Sultan Kudarat is also currently being processed.