«List of Issues arising from the Initial-Fourth Periodic Report of the Philippines to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights November ...»
The 1987 Land Reform Programme has long been criticized by Filipino farmers and peasants, since it was considered to have been designed from the outset to benefit landowners rather than small farmers. OMCT is concerned that the land reform in the Philippines includes loopholes that compromise the full enjoyment of land rights by the most vulnerable. In particular, OMCT is concerned at those provisions that do not allow for fair land redistribution. This is the case, for example, with exemptions from the land quota system whereby landlords are exempted from limitations on the maximum area of land they can own if they declare their intention to convert this land from agricultural use to commercial, industrial or residential use. Therefore, lands remain de facto concentrated in the hands of an elite.
OMCT is also concerned that the inadequacy of Filipino land reform was already identified as a source of concern in the 1995 concluding observations of the Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights. The Committee pointed out that the loopholes in the land reform programme hindered the proper implementation of the law and indicated that the Government of the Philippines had “failed to meet its own targets” and that there appeared “to be a lack of political will to redress the situation”.
4. Indigenous Peoples’ Rights and Violence
Poverty, inequality and violence against indigenous peoples There are approximately 140 indigenous ethno-linguistic groups in the Philippines, constituting between 15 and 20 per cent of the Filipino population. Indigenous peoples are frequently located in isolated and inaccessible areas that are, however, rich in natural resources. One of the principal challenges faced by indigenous peoples is represented by so-called ‘development aggression’ and commercial activities, since activities such as mining and logging affect their lands and ancestral homes.11 Indigenous peoples are among the most marginalised groups in the Philippines, and are often victims of various forms of abuse, violence and exploitation.12 Furthermore, due to their poor living conditions and social exclusion, indigenous children are at risk of becoming involved in armed conflict and being recruited into armed groups. Armed conflict also renders indigenous women and girls more vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse.
While, on paper, indigenous peoples’ rights are protected and guaranteed by the 1997 Philippines’ Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act (IPRA) - based on the provisions of the draft of what is now the UN Declaration on Indigenous Peoples' Rights - in concrete terms the provisions of this Act are systematically undermined by other laws, inter alia, the 1995 Mining Code. In many cases this Code provides for mining permits on indigenous lands which are, in theory, protected under the IPRA.
The tensions generated by the conflict between indigenous and commercial interests have frequently led to protest actions on the part of indigenous organizations, resulting in turn in social conflict. Often, indigenous activists are prosecuted, harassed, detained and imprisoned for their efforts to protect the economic, social and cultural rights of their communities.13 OMCT is particularly concerned that, on many occasions, peaceful opposition by local communities and indigenous peoples to mining operations that violate their economic, social and cultural rights and endanger their way of life has been met with violence. In this respect, OMCT deplores the fact that, on 3 October 2007, during a protest against mining activities in Sibuyan Island, Armin Marin, an indigenous activists, was killed by a gunshot.
OMCT points out that poorly regulated mining projects, ostensibly aimed at increasing employment and improving living conditions of the population, do not represent a sustainable development alternative. OMCT recalls that mining activities can have a negative socio-economic impact on the populations affected by these projects, including water deprivation and pollution, health threats, forced displacement and threats to livelihood.
Specifically, with respect to the situation of indigenous communities, OMCT express two
- Widespread poverty among Filipino indigenous peoples is related to the issue of land use and to the unequal allocation of benefits deriving from the economic development process. Social and political tensions in rural areas have led, and will continue to lead to violent civil conflict in various parts of the country.
- In the light of the liberalization policy undertaken by the Government of the Philippines, the interests of private companies and corporations that have occupied indigenous peoples’ lands are better protected by the Government than indigenous land rights.
The case of the impact of the Canatuan Mine on the Subanon Community, Island of Mindanao The Subanon tribe has been displaced over several decades, driven by an increasing number of government development projects. Over the years, the resistance of the Subanon to this treatment has led to serious conflict, violence and human rights violations involving the Filipino Army.14 TVI Pacific Inc. is a Canadian mining company which was granted mining rights in Sitio Canatuan. The TVI Pacific project is based on an agreement between the company and the Government of the Philippines. The operations involve the exploitation of an area historically occupied by the Subanon people, and in particular of a mountain considered sacred by this community. The company’s operations have reportedly been the cause of a
number of violations:
- Militarization of and acts of violence on the ancestral land by the company’s security guards, establishment of checkpoints, etc.
- Changes in water quality reported by farmers and fishermen in the area surrounding the mine. Communities living on the coastline complain of high levels of sediments and the bitter taste of the water. By 2007, TVI Pacific had taken no steps to provide a water treatment plant.
- Forced evictions took place in 2003 when TVI Pacific was granted permission by the Philippines Government to forcibly demolish the facilities of small-scale miners and remove those miners from the area. On 22 May 2006, a miner’s family was forcibly removed and their homes destroyed by security forces. Bulldozers were also used to destroy gardens in which miners grew food.
The State Report on indigenous issues
§ 444: Liberating the Indigenous People from Indignity A capability-building program which is designed to uplift the self-worth of indigenous peoples.
Exercise cultural awareness in them and strengthen their positive indigenous values, system and practices. The project is currently being pilot-tested in Lamitan, Basilan, and Zamboanga City.
§ 594: Agrarian Reform Community Development Strategy A focused, gender-sensitive approach intended to empower, and build the social capital of underrepresented and marginal groups (such as small farmers, farmworkers, agricultural lessees, subsistence fisherfolk, indigenous people and rural women) in rural communities;
§1008: S&T Intervention Program for the Poor, Vulnerable and Disabled.
The program aims to the provide the poor and the disadvantaged sectors of the civil society access to DOST generated/sourced technologies and science-based approaches to resource management to meet the minimum basic needs and to facilitate technology based-livelihood opportunities through the efficient and effective delivery of S&T services. Through the Program, the marginalized coastal and upland communities, indigenous communities, displaced communities, persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups will be provided technotransfer training, technical assistance, higher skill/knowledge acquisition, equipment grant and/or prototyping, and linkages for resource generation, including marketing and financing, integrated with value orientation to provide a holistic approach to development.
§1009: S&T for Mindanao.
The program aims to build up the Mindanao region's technological capability in order to boost its long-term attractiveness to investors. It has generated the support and collaboration of various line agencies, and the local governments including some cultural minorities from Mindanao. The Program has two major components: 1) Technology Program for Micro and Small Scale Enterprises; and b) Mindanao S&T Human Resources Development Program. To optimize the use of limited government resources, the Program will focus on four priority sectors, namely: 1) food industry; 2) marine; 3) horticulture; and 4) furniture.
5. Forced Evictions and the Right to Housing In the Philippines, more than one third of the urban population lives in informal settlements. More than half of these urban poor families (1.4 million) live in Metro Manila.15 In theory, the Government has addressed the concerns of the urban poor concern through its “Urban Development and Housing Act” (UDHA), which is intended to provide adequate housing at affordable cost, basic services and employment opportunities for the slum residents in resettlement areas.16 However, owing to insufficient capacities at the local level and the lack of appropriate mechanisms to ensure cooperation and consultation in problem-solving, the conditions of urban slum residents have only worsened, and they continue to face the threat of eviction and demolition from both the government and private landowners.17 Urban demolitions and evictions Over recent years, the Philippines has been engaged in a policy of urban “beautification” and “development”. The associated projects have involved the eviction of hundreds of thousands of people living in the urban areas concerned. Of these, the landless urban poor are the most severely affected by forced evictions.18 This takes place despite the fact that the Constitution of the Philippines and the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992 (UDHA) provide legal protection for housing rights. COHRE – The Centre for Housing Rights and Evictions – has observed that “the Government of the Philippines continues to use various strategies such as pressuring residents to relinquish these rights by signing waivers and then 'voluntarily' relocating them to sites that are not fit to be lived in.”19 Demolitions and evictions in Metro Manila On 27 February 2007, personnel from the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) together with armed police initiated the forced eviction of families living under the South Superhighway Bridge and the San Andres Bridge 1 in Manila. During this operation, two hundred MMDA personnel and other armed police forces allegedly evicted 54 families living in the area and demolished their homes. Many people, mostly women and children, were injured during the demolitions. Five men were severely beaten by MMDA personnel.20 OMCT wishes to draw attention to the fact that the issue of forced evictions in the Philippines was already identified as an element of concern in the 1995 concluding observations of the Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights. In particular, the Committee referred to the scale of forced evictions and “the manner in which they are carried out”, emphasizing that such a situation was not compatible with the respect for the right to housing.
The State Report on housing issues
§ 608 : Legislation on Squatting and Eviction Another important feature of UDHA (Urban Development and Housing Act) is that it discourages
eviction or demolition as a practice. Eviction is allowed only under the following conditions, viz:
when persons occupy danger areas; or when government infrastructure projects with available funding are about to be implemented; or when there is a court order for eviction and demolition.
The law also outlines the guidelines for eviction, viz – the provision of basic services and facilities in resettlement sites, livelihood support, meaningful participation and adequate social preparation for the affected households, close coordination between sending and host local government units, grievance redress and related aspects.