Department of Agriculture responsible for landgrabbing, environmental destruction in Mt. Sinaka

Isabel Fermiza
NPA Mt. Apo Sub-Regional Command, NPA-Southern Mindanao
August 20, 2013

For threatening to damage a major source of drinking water in Arakan and parts of Davao City, and dislocating thousands of peasants in the process, Guerrilla Front 53 operatives under the Mt. Apo Sub-regional Command-New People’s Army burned five heavy equipments of a dam construction project of the US-Aquino regime’s Department of Agriculture, August 18 at 2pm.

The project is linked to a planned stockfarm pasture land program in Mt. Sinaka watershed area and part of the 4,100 hectares of University of the Philippines (UP) Mindanao Reservation at Brgy. Datu Ladayon, Arakan town, North Cotabato.

Without even bothering to secure a token environmental compliance certificate from the reactionary regime’s own environment agency, project proponents have went on to pursue the dam construction, at the expense of Mt. Sinaka, an important watershed area that is also home to wildlife, rich forests and endangered species.

Worse, ASEC. Dante De Lima of the Department of Agriculture has also spearheaded in bribing peasants to give up their lands and transform it into stock farms for hundreds of cattle; one cattle head would need one hectare of land. The landgrabbing in the name of a cattle project would dislocate thousands of vegetable farmers in the area.

The NPA not only targeted De Lima’s project due to its huge environmental impact and the dislocation of peasants,but also because it has committed gross abuses of workers’ rights. Daily wage for lowly dam construction workers is at P200/day with 10% deduction to be pocketed by village officials, while for stockfarm workers, P150 daily for 10 hours of work.

By damaging the agency’s backhoe, bulldozer, payloader, and two elf trucks, the NPA is sending the message that it will not tolerate destructive projects that are grossly disadvantageous to the people. The NPA punishes capitalists and reactionary agents responsible for plundering the forests, introducing projects that will further exacerbate the disastrous impact of climate change, and dislocate lowly peasants and abuse workers. Mt. Sinaka is one of the remaining forest frontiers in the boundary of Davao and North Cotabato provinces.