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Philippines: Deaths plague indigenous community that refuses to give consent to a coffee plantation

Author: Tony La Viña and Norly Grace Mercado, Rappler, Published on: 15 April 2019

"Coffee and the blood of indigenous peoples," 20 October 2018

On December 3, 2017...indigenous leader Datu Victor and 7 others were killed in a surprise attack by the Philippine military, according to a report from the Global Witness.

Datu Victor was part of a group of indigenous peoples locked in a 28-year struggle with DM Consunji Incorporated (DMCI) over land in South Cotabato, Mindanao.

DMCI, a billion-peso real estate and mining company, has expanded its portfolio to include coffee production.

Silvicultural Industries Incorporated (SII) runs the 1,800-hectare Dawang Coffee Plantation in the village of Ned, in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. Some 300 hectares of this plantation belong to the T'boli-Manobo S'daf Claimants Organization (Tamasco), which was headed by Datu Victor before his death. SII is a subsidiary of DMCI.

SII operates the plantation through an agreement issued by issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Tamasco had resisted the agreement and the encroachment of SII into their territory, but SII won out in the end.

House Resolution No. 1550 filed in the House of Representatives in December 2017 stated that DMCI supplies its coffee beans to a food and beverage giant.

The agreement that allowed SII to run the coffee plantation was supposed to have expired on December 31, 2016. Asked in 2015 if they would give their Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) for the renewal of the agreement, Tamasco declined.

Datu Victor and members of Tamasco, all poor subsistence farmers, could now work on their land in peace, to plant crops and feed their families.

To Datu Victor’s surprise, a document, signed by a DENR undersecretary, had magically turned up in 2015 that gave SII permission to run the plantation until 2032.

DMCI chose to operate in the 300-hectare ancestral domain of Tamasco, without the FPIC of Tamasco. By doing so, it became party to a story ending with a cliff-hanger that involved 8 dead bodies.

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Related companies: DMCI Holdings M&S Company Nestlé Silvicultural Industries