Bulatlat | 27 July 2013
Landgrabbing by multinational firms prevalent in underdeveloped countries – foreign activists
An international peasant workshop billed “Global Landgrabbing, Genuine Land Reform and Human Rights” concluded that lands in underdeveloped countries are being grabbed, at an alarming rate, by multinational corporations to maximize profits, thereby displacing thousands of communities and denying peasants their right to the land they till.
By GERRY ALBERT CORPUZ
MANILA – Foreign activists who took part in an international peasant workshop billed “Global Landgrabbing, Genuine Land Reform and Human Rights,” held in Manila on July 19 to 21 are alarmed over the spate of government-sanctioned landgrabbing cases in the Philippines and other underdeveloped countries involving multinational corporations.
The workshop – which is part of the First International Conference on Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (ICHRPP) organized by the human rights group Karapatan and faith-based organizations Peace for Life and Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines – was sponsored by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Uma) and Pamalakaya fisherfolk alliance. Co-sponsoring the workshop were Amihan peasant women federation, the study commission no.6 of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS), International Fisherfolk and Fishworkers Coalition (IFWC) and Asian Peasant Coalition (APC).
The workshop on global landgrabbing was attended by 41 participants representing people’s movements and international solidarity groups from 10 countries: the USA, Peru, Spain, The Netherlands, Denmark, Indonesia, India, Canada, Tanzania, and host country the Philippines.Workshop organizer Angie Ipong of UMA said the three speakers RahmatAjiguna, secretary general of AGRA or the Alliance for Agrarian Reform Movement in Indonesia (Indonesia), MoosaAzmi of Asian Bridge (India) and Rafael Mariano, national chairperson of KMP presented cases and the impact of global landgrabbing in their respective countries and how this neo-liberal globalization policy has summarily denied and violated, in sweeping and escalating fashion, the peasants’ quest for genuine land reform, agrarian justice and human rights.
Mariano of KMP cited the following cases of global landgrabbing in the country that shocked the foreign delegates to the ICHRPP:
• The International Food Policy Research Institute in 2012 reports that a transnational group in Qatar had leased no less than 100,000 hectares of prime agricultural lands from the Philippine government.
• China clinched a land deal with the previous Arroyo administration allowing Chinese agribusiness corporations to utilize 1.2 million hectares of prime agricultural lands in the Philippines.
• Recently, the AMA Group Holdings Philippines inked a contract with Bahrain’s Nadir and Ibrahim Sons of Hassan Group to develop 10,000 hectares of land in the province of Davao del Norte to cultivate bananas, rice and other crops.
• The Philippine government will receive $ 300 million USD from Hassan Group for the lease of 10,000 hectares of land that would eventually displace thousands of farming families in the province.
The KMP official also noted that In 2011, farmers in San Mariano and Delfin Albano towns, province of Isabela, succeeded in preventing Japanese corporations from landgrabbing not less than 11,000 hectares of prime agricultural lands. The project for biofuel production cost $ 120 million USD and funded by JGC Corporation of Japan in partnership with Philippine Bioethanol and Energy Investments.
At present, some 1.5 million hectares of land are primed for lease to foreign countries, and the Philippine government is set to open more agricultural lands to monopoly corporations of the United States, European Union, South Korea and Australia.
Lawmakers in the Philippines are pushing for amendments to the 1987 Constitution to allow 100 percent foreign ownership of land. This is reportedly a condition set on the Philippine government before being accepted to the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), a trade pact being organized by the US government.
Angie Ipong of KMP said during the workshop, other flashpoints of struggles in the Philippines due to global landgrabbing and resource grab were cited like the case of Manila Bay reclamation project (around 26, 234 hectares of land would be reclaimed for corporate use) and conversion of the 90,000 hectare Laguna Lake and areas covered by Aurora Pacific Economic Zone (Apeco) in Casiguran, Aurora province for investments and projects of big multinational corporations.
Landgrabbing in Indonesia
Rahmat of APC said in Jambi province, Indonesia, thousands of Indonesian farmers and indigenous groups are opposing a government plan to allow a foreign company to utilize one million hectares of agricultural lands for eucalyptus plantation.
He said that on top of the one-million-hectare deal, the Jakarta government had already approved the lease of 288,500 hectares of farmlands to KS Oils (India), and Singapore-based corporations Noble and Wilmar International for edible oil production.
According to Rahmat, the red carpet entry and landgrabbing spree of transnational corporations in Indonesia is expected to be legalized and would be facilitated more with the approval of Land Acquisition Bill, which will fast track plans for corporate takeover of lands by US and other members of the imperialist league across the Indonesian archipelago.
The Indonesian peasant leader also cited the stiff opposition of peasants against the PTPN XIV Sugar Plantation in Takalar, South Sulawesi I. The landgrabbing for sugar plantation covers 1,700 hectares and would displace 1, 094 households from nine villages, namely Barugayya, Ko’mara, Timbuseng, Massamaturu, KampungBeru, Lassang, Lassang Barat, Toata, and Parangluara.
Special Economic zones in India
Meanwhile, Azmi of Asian Bridge said their government has transformed India into a Republic of Economic Zones saying that India has now 588 special economic zones and the New Delhi government is set to approve 386 more applications for SEZs.
At the conference, Azmi cited the case of POSCO project, often touted as India’s “largest foreign investment”, involving a captive iron ore mine, a steel plant and a private port. The current conflict is mainly in the proposed steel plant area, for which POSCO has sought 4,004 acres of land (of which about 3,100 acres are forest land).
He said a steel plant will be established in two phases. The first phase would be completed in two modules, together attracting a total of INR 21,800 crores ($5.1 billion) investment. The first phase would produce six million tons per year of crude steel, and 5.64 million tons per year of finished steel. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) mentioned a second phase, also to be completed in steps of two modules, together attracting a total of INR 21,500 crores ($5 billion) investment.
The second phase would double the plant’s capacity to 12 million tons per year of crude steel. The people in the area are opposing the project and have been continuously protesting since 2005, when the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by the government and POSCO.
Impact of global landgrabbingThe organizers and participants to the international workshop agreed on the following impact of global landgrabbing to farmers and rural people: