Philippines: The pitfalls of Special Economic Zones

Author: Eduardo Climaco Tadem, Freedom From Debt Coalition for Rappler (Philippines), Published on: 13 November 2016

…The past decades have seen a proliferation of special economic zones (SEZ) in the Philippines.

SEZs are meant to attract investments (mostly foreign) to contribute to the country’s economic growth and generate employment. Situated mainly in the countryside, however, SEZs also take up vast tracts of mainly agriculturally productive lands. In this manner, they encroach on farmlands cultivated by small farmers and indigenous groups.

Government systematically takes over these lands without regard for the legal rights of peasant and other rural families who have been toiling on them for generations…

As a further incentive, governments normally relax laws that protect workers’ rights and welfare…

The takeover by SEZs of large tracts of often productive agricultural lands can be viewed in the context of a global phenomenon of land grabbing that has come to characterize land transformations in recent years, including the conversion of peasant-controlled lands for commercial plantations and biofuel production…

A 2015 study by Ateneo de Manila University scholars, Jerome Patrick Cruz, Hansley Juliano, and Enrico La Viña…reports the displacements of Filipino rural communities from their inhabited lands, and typically accompanied by human rights abuses such as intimidation, forcible evictions and killings … all suggest(ing) that a more aggressive drive for commercially-linked land seizures is now under way.”…

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