The 5th National Palm Oil Congress was held in Davao during the weekend. I delivered the welcome remarks in behalf of Mayor Rody Duterte.
In my brief talk, I cited the growing importance of palm oil not only for domestic and industrial uses but as a source of biodiesel, an alternative fuel.
But I emphasized that expanding palm oil plantations must consider its social and environmental impacts.
Indonesia is poised to become the world’s top palm oil producer but at what price.
I remember the problems besetting Agusan del Sur when the first palm oil plantations were created during the 1970s at the height of martial law. Whole communities were displaced, many people, including lumads, lost their lands to a Malaysian company backed by the military regime under President Ferdinand Marcos.
Many people were arrested, tortured, massacred in the ensuing protests. Accounts of these were featured in the book Mindanao: The Bleeding Land, published by the human rights group Task Force Detainees of the Philippines.