UCA News

Philippines

Philippine tribe wants end to Mindanao coffee plantation

Affected people say they are not able to farm their lands because of dubious permit

 Bong S. Sarmiento, General Santos City

Bong S. Sarmiento, General Santos City

Updated: July 03, 2019 08:39 AM GMT
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Support Asia's largest network of Catholic journalists and editors
Philippine tribe wants end to Mindanao coffee plantation

Tribal leader Datu Dande Dinyan faces the media along with relatives of the eight tribesmen who were killed in the southern Philippines in 2017. (Photo by Bong S. Sarmiento)

Share this article :
A group of tribal people in the southern Philippines have petitioned the government to cancel a permit issued to a coffee plantation on what they say is their ancestral domain.

The group, backed by environmental activist and church groups, filed the petition against M&S Company, which operates the Dawang coffee plantation in Mindanao, in Manila on July 2.

"For almost 30 years we have not been able to farm and make a living because of the plantation," said Datu Dande Dinyan, head of the tribal group T’boli-Manobo S’Daf Claimants Organization.

The petitioners claimed that they did not give their "free, prior, and informed consent" to M&S, which holds a "forest management agreement," or a "Forest Management Agreement" (FMA) from the government.

A FMA is a production-sharing contract entered into by the government and an applicant, which is granted an exclusive right to develop, manage, protect and utilize a specified area of forestland and forest resources for a period of at least 25 years.

M&S’ agreement was later merged with another forest management deal from another company, covering a total of about 29,000 hectares of land straddling the provinces of South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.

Sister Susan Bolanio of the Oblates of Notre Dame order, who has been assisting the tribal people, said the government has already conducted "field investigations" into the merger.

Pochoy Labog, the tribal group’s lawyer, said the agreement merger "was a sleight of hand" that skirted the expiration of the deal allegedly to favor the company.

"The [Department of Environment and Natural Resources] must immediately cancel this dubious permit and end continuing violations by M&S," said the lawyer.

Sister Bolanio, meanwhile, said there is a "feeling of apprehension" in the tribal community because of the presence of armed company guards.

The nun called on the government to release the result of its investigation, saying that the company "has no legal basis to continue its operation" after the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples cancelled a "certificate of compliance" issued to M&S.

The presence of the company in the tribal lands has been mired in controversy following the killing of a tribal leader and seven other tribesmen in December 2017, an incident described by human rights groups as a massacre.

The military, however, claimed that those who died were rebel fighters and supporters who were killed during a "legitimate military operation."

Support UCA News...

As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.

That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.

Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.

UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.

And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.

We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.

With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.

Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...
UCAN Donate
YOUR DAILY
NEWSLETTER
Thank you. You are now signed up to our Daily Full Bulletin newsletter
 
Support UCA News

William J. Grimm, MM

Publisher

Union of Catholic Asian News

"As Pope Francis has said, we live not so much in an era of change as in a change of era. That is especially true in Asia and for the churches of Asia. UCA News is the dedicated, Asia-wide news and information service for the Church in Asia and we need your help to maintain the service."