DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Regional advocacy group PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) joined a solidarity and fact finding mission for farmers and farm workers engaged in a land dispute against Lapanday Foods Corp., one of the Philippines’ largest banana plantation operators in Madaum village, Tagum City in Mindanao on 15 December.
In the past week, 10 people have been reportedly wounded in three separate shooting incidents as Lapanday security personnel tried to take down the camp out of farmers and farm workers asserting their rightful claim to 145 hectares of land grabbed by the company.
“We are deeply alarmed that these cases of violence seem to be committed by the alleged security people of Lapanday boldy and without fear of being held liable. We went here to let the farmers know that many groups, including those outside Mindanao and the Philippines, are supporting them. We join in the call for justice and accountability. We join in the call that the rightful claim of the farmers to their land be respected,” said Deeppa Ravindran, a program coordinator for PANAP, during the solidarity mission in Madaum.
PANAP also found out that aside from bullets, Lapanday also allegedly used toxic agrochemicals to drive away the protesting farmers. On the morning of 12 December, a Lapanday plane sprayed pesticide twice in the direction of farmers and their children who were having breakfast then. The aerial spraying “hurt their eyes and nose”, said one farmer.
“Pesticides, of course, have other long-term health impacts, including cancer and learning disorder, with children the most vulnerable. This is outrageous and enraging. Is Lapanday also using poisonous pesticides against the farmers and their innocent children? Someone should be made accountable here and we call on the authorities for a prompt and impartial probe,” Ravindran emphasized.
According to PANAP partners Peasant Movement of the Philippines (KMP) and the Union of Agricultural Workers (UMA), the plantation’s workers had been picketing in front of the Lapanday gate for the past seven months and decided to reclaim the 145-hectare land with support from other farmers’ groups last 9 December. The said land has already been awarded by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to 159 Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs).
Based on initial accounts, seven of those wounded were from the shooting incident on 14 December while three were hurt on a separate incident on 12 December. The first shooting incident happened on 9 December, the first day of the camp out, but no one was reported injured.
In a statement on International Human Rights Day (10 December), PANAP revealed that almost 16 farmers, indigenous people, and advocates of the people’s right to land were being killed every month this year – or three times the average in 2015 – in Asia Pacific and other regions. The data cover incidents that occurred in the Philippines. ###
Reference: Ms. Sarojeni Rengam, Executive Director, firstname.lastname@example.org