"The spreading oil palm plantations are a tragedy for us. They are destroying our ancestral lands and forests and are leaving us destitute," explained Artiso Mandawa of the ALDAW indigenous network on Palawan. In a few years, palm plantations encroached an area of 50,000 hectares in Philippine. And they are rapidly expanding. Another 40,000 hectares of land have been targeted and are now being cleared in Mindanao and Palawan, allegedly for the purpose of eradicating poverty while reducing edible oil imports. In the eyes of policy makers, the earmarked land is "unused" or "underdeveloped". However, the government plans neglect to mention that the "unused" land belongs to small farmers and indigenous peoples who live there, grow rice and vegetables, and gather fruits, medicinal plants and building materials in the neighboring forests. The rivers provide them with clean water. They need their ancestral land to live.
"When they take our land, leave our families to starve and violate our rights, we have no choice but to fight," explained Rubenson Batuto, a member of the Higaonon tribe of Mindanao. “As an indigenous people, we have a right to our land, even if we have been denied it to this very day." Thanks to their sustainable way of life, the indigenous tribes have preserved the unique biodiversity of their ancestral lands. The rainforests and mangroves are home to 49 animal and 56 plant species threatened with extinction. These include the Philippine crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis), the Palawan peacock-pheasant (Polyplectron Napoleonis) and swallowtail butterfly (Graphium megaera). In 1990, the UNESCO declared the entire island of Palawan to be a Man and Biosphere Reserve.
Rainforest Rescue support a petition of the ALDAW indigenous network to tell the authorities of the Philippines to urgently stop oil palm expansion and safeguard indigenous peoples’ rights.