This is another successful story that we would like to share with all of you.
In early 2016, two major agribusiness companies (the Green Power Palawan Agriculture Corporation – GPPAC, andLionheart Agrotech) began the clearing of parcels of land found within the ancestral domain of the Pala’wan of Barangay Ransang (Municipality of Rizal), without following due Free and Prior Consent (FPIC) procedures. The affected areas being converted into coconut plantations are located in Sitio Malutok, Sitio Sumurom, and Sitio Balinbalin. It is important to point out that such locations are also bordering some valuable ICCAs (Territories and Areas Conserved by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities), such as the Signapan valley, being managed by the Tau’t Batu (a sub-group of the Pala’wan). Hence, the targeted 10,000 hectares of plantations might have posed significant pressure on the neighbouring upland ICCAs.
The plan to stop such companies has been a CALG priority, since the very beginning. After three years of community organizing, petitions writing, collection of evidences and documentation, we are finally harvesting the results of this long struggle. According to NCIP (National Commission on Indigenous Peoples) and CALG findings, the MOA previously entered between the two companies and the local communities was based on an improper application of FPIC guidelines. Hence, this was the reason why the companies’ Certificate of Precondition (CP) was suspended.
As a result, the two companies filed a motion of reconsideration as of June 1 2017, requesting NCIP to lift the order of suspension and allow Lionearth and GPPAC to resolve the issue by paying the required bond to be decided by the affected tribes, pursuant to section 23 of the 2012 FPIC guidelines.
The final response from NCIP Region IV Office - contained in the CEB Resolution no. 07-124.2018, Series of 2018 - and being transmitted to NCIP Palawan Provincial Office on 1 October, does confirm that both companies should, indeed, pay the bond as required by the law. But this, by itself, will not allow them to resume their operations. In fact, both Lionheart and GPPAC are now been requested to submit the Environmental and Socio-Cultural Impact Statement, followed by a comprehensive work plan which shall include the project’s profile and plan of operations, the identification of the targeted area, etc. More importantly, the companies should strictly comply with all procedures related to section 19-23 of the 2012 FPIC guidelines.
In a nutshell, all this means that both companies are now suspended until they comply with all NCIP requirements. Given the opposition of the local indigenous residents, we have good reasons to believe that the companies will be unable to provide the documents requested by NCIP, and to obtain the communities’ Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC).
While CALG will continue to monitor this case closely, we would like to express our sincere appreciation for the collaboration of NCIP key officials, which – indeed - has been pivotal to put these two companies on hold.