Stop the attacks and killings in Negros, Philippines!

Joint statement of the Coalition of Agricultural Workers International (CAWI) and People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS)

Amid the unabated global killings of land rights defenders, including farmers, agricultural workers, and other small food producers, the Coalition of Agricultural Workers International (CAWI) and the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS) join the calls for justice and accountability in the Philippines, one of the hardest hit by such atrocity against the rural people. 

We support today’s “Day of Mourning and Protest to Defend Negros.” Negros is an impoverished island province in central Philippines where most of the recent killings in the country have taken place. Overall, 87 Filipinos in the island were already killed since 2017. Many of the victims were sugarcane plantation workers resisting landgrabs and fighting for better working conditions.

It appears that Negros is a special target for whoever are behind the systematic murders as three out of every 10 political killings in the country under incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte happened in the island. Known for its vast sugarcane plantations, Negros is among the poorest provinces in the Philippines with high concentration of control over agricultural lands in the hands of landlords and consequent high incidence of landlessness among farmers and farmworkers.

Various global and regional reports like those from advocacy groups Global Witness and PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) claim that the Philippines is probably the deadliest country in the world today for environment and land rights defenders.

Stark similarities characterize the countries where these killings are taking place. Whether in Southeast Asia, South Asia, Africa or Latin America, countries with reported cases of killings of peasants as well as of indigenous peoples face militarization of their rural communities; rampant land and resource grabbing; and encroachment by big corporate interests. Like those in Negros, many victims are tagged as terrorists and enemies of the state for standing up against investments and projects that displace and harm the people.

We strongly condemn these attacks against the rural people in Negros and elsewhere in the world; attacks that not only violate their basic human rights but also greatly undermine genuine people’s democracy and food sovereignty. We join our members and partners in the Philippines in demanding an impartial, credible and swift investigation of the killings in Negros and make to account the perpetrators whoever they are.

We also stand against the worldwide trend of restricting and even criminalizing civil society actors for our development work with the rural people, which encompasses criticism of state policies that do not serve the farmers, farmworkers, fishers, indigenous people and other small food producers. Instead of antagonism, governments should welcome efforts by non-government groups to better the living condition and advance the rights and welfare of the rural people, including through genuine land reform, people-centered rural development and accessible social services, to name a few.

Stop the attacks, stop the killings!

Defend Negros, defend land rights defenders!

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(Featured image by Carlo Manalansan.)

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