Justice remains elusive two years since the killing of eight members of the T’boli-Manobo indigenous people in Mindanao who are locked in a struggle with a coffee plantation over land.
Task Force Tamasco, a group of non-governmental organizations supporting the T’boli-Manobo S’daf Claimants Organization (TAMASCO), condemns the agonizingly slow action of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to the petition of TAMASCO to cancel the permit for Dawang Coffee Plantation, which is at the heart of their struggle.
The group laments the lack of urgency of the DENR in resolving an issue that affects the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of indigenous peoples. It is ironic that a government agency tasked with the conservation of the environment would support instead a large-scale monocrop plantation. Indigenous peoples’ traditional farming practices would serve the country better as it is a model for sustainable development.
The permit, which was supposed to have expired in 2016, was renewed in 2015 by the DENR without the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of TAMASCO, a clear violation of the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA).
M&S Company operates Dawang Coffee Plantation, a part of which has encroached on the ancestral domain of the TAMASCO in South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat. M&S operates the plantation under an IFMA, or Integrated Forest Management Agreement, authorized by the DENR. Because of this encroachment, the livelihoods of members of TAMASCO have been put on hold.
The DENR has said recently in media statements that it will look into the matter after TAMASCO filed a special civil action to compel the DENR to cancel the permit at the Regional Trial Court in Quezon City in November this year. Even before the massacre, DENR was apprised of the struggle of TAMASCO with Dawang Coffee Plantation, but it had chosen to drag its heels. Task Force TAMASCO hopes that this investigation be concluded swiftly and show that DENR is a champion of environmental justice.
In 2017 eight members of TAMASCO, including its former tribal chief Victor Danyan, were killed in what the military alleged was an encounter with rebels. A report from Global Witness, however, found that the massacre was intimately connected to the struggle of indigenous peoples over their land.
Task Force TAMASCO is composed of non-governmental organizations Convergence of Initiative for Environmental Justice, OND Hesed, Inc., Lilak Purple Action for Women, Alyansa Tigil Mina, Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, SANLAKAS, Philippine Alliance of Human Rights and Advocates, and the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center.