Blog Archives

Asian People’s Land Rights Tribunal – now online!

We are glad to share our newest publication, Asian People’s Land Rights Tribunal: Land Rights are Human Rights.

APLRT front pageThis publication is a report of the proceedings of the Asian People’s Land Rights Tribunal held last 16-17 January 2014 Quezon City, Philippines.

It features the four cases presented by the aggrieved communities in Cambodia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. This publication also includes recommendations for the communities and key principles for responsible investment addressed to national government and international organizations.

Regional Workshop on Land Monitoring Initiatives

ANGOC Chair Emeritus, Fr. Francis Lucas, opening the program.

ANGOC Chair Emeritus, Fr. Francis Lucas, opening the program.

Around forty representatives from CSOs, research institutions, government and international organizations from Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal,  Philippines and Vietnam met last 21-22 April in Quezon City, Philippines in a 2-day workshop on land monitoring initiatives with the theme, Towards an Accountable Governance on Land.

The workshop was jointly organized by ANGOC, LWA, International Land Coalition (ILC) Asia, and Global Land Tool Network (GLTN).

The workshop aimed to:

  1. present and discuss the country land monitoring reports;
  2. enhance the land monitoring framework in the light of pressing issues and global initiatives (i.e., post-2015 sustainable development goals, Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible governance of Tenure of Land, Forests and Fisheries); and
  3. explore ways forward to continuously build a regional platform for common action towards an accountable and effective governance on land.

On 23 April, LWA members were able to discuss and plan on how to continuously strengthen the campaign towards enhancing capacities of CSOs in partnering with communities in defending their rights to land.

The LWA country member representatives.

The LWA country member representatives.

Presentations may be downloaded here.

Phil President moves to extend CARP for 2 more years; farmers praise President’s action
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA, Philippines – A day after the 26th anniversary of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program that was started by the administration of his mother, President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday, June 11, certified as urgent the bill extending CARP until 2016, Malacanang announced Wednesday.

With still more than half a million hectares of mostly big private agricultural landholdings that have not yet been distributed to thousands of landless tillers, Aquino gave his commitment to farmers to finish CARP before he steps down, a promise he had made during his 2012 State of the Nation Address (SONA).

The President reached the decision after a two-hour meeting in Malacanang on June 10 with the following farmers and leaders of peasant organizations: Arnel Figueroa of the group Pesante, Dorita Vargas of Hacienda Canticbil-Manalo in Negros Occidental, Armando Jarilla of Task Force Mapalad, Organi Biong of Bitangan Estate, Rene Cerilla of Pakisama, and Maribel Luzara of Kilusang Magbubukid sa Bundok Peninsula.

Aquino made his commitment less than three weeks before the law extending CARP for five more years expires at the end of the month and also on the last session day of Congress on Wednesday, June 11, before it adjourns sine die from June 14 to July 27, 2014.  Read More

ANGOC co-organizes brownbag on Voluntary Guidelines on Governance of Tenure

ADB_BB1Manila, Philippines – “It is in implementing the new Voluntary Guidelines for the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests where the real challenge lies since it is non-binding for governments.”

This was stressed by Fr. Francis Lucas, Chairperson Emeritus of the Asian NGO Coalition for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ANGOC) last June 10, 2013 at the Brown Bag session of the Asian Development Bank.

ANGOC helped organize the Bank staff’s learning session, together with the ADB Agriculture, Rural Development and Food Security Community of Practice and the Food and Agriculture Organization, around the Voluntary Guidelines on Governance of Tenure (VGGT) and how they can lead to more responsible land investments for smallholders in Asia.

“We emphasize the importance of these discussions for better tenure reform because while land reform laws are in place across Asia, their execution has been poor and governments have been ambivalent towards fulfilling them. Instead, land is increasingly being allocated for special economic zones, agribusiness ventures, and capital and labor-intensive extractive industries like mining and similar commercial undertakings,” emphasized Fr. Lucas.

ANGOC linked ADB with Dr. Paul Munro-Faure from the FAO Climate, Energy and Tenure Division, to give an orientation to Bank staff on the VGGT. Dr. Faure is part of the FAO team actively promoting the implementation of the Guidelines especially in countries where the legal framework for governance of resource tenure remains weak.

On May 11, 2012, 98 countries in the World Committee on Food Security officially endorsed the VGGT in Rome.

The Guidelines are intended to provide a framework for responsible tenure governance that supports food security, poverty alleviation, sustainable resource use and environmental protection. They set out principles and internationally-accepted practices that may guide the preparation and implementation of policies and laws related to tenure governance.

Meanwhile, ANGOC Chair Antonio Quizon pointed to the commodification of land and resources that is fueling the rush for the world’s farmlands.

“As globalization demands more and more resources, land has emerged as a key source of conflict. The hunger of global capital must be fed by commodifying everything – land and water, plants and genes, and even clean air in the form of ‘carbon emission quotas’,” emphasized Quizon.

To address this, Quizon says it is critical to have four Rs: credible Research and data, better Regulation like the adoption of the VGGT, as well as Retribution and Resistance of affected communities when necessary. #

The National Land Use Act: How an urgent bill dies in the Philippines

The Campaign for Land Use Policy Now! (CLUP Now!) and land rights advocates in the Philippines are mourning the missed opportunity at the last session of the 15th Congress to pass the National Land Use Act – or NLUA – which has languished in Congress for the past 20 years. The NLUA, already in its 3rd Reading, was almost passed but was sabotaged by some senators who submitted late amendments.

The National Land Use Act is urgently needed in the country to promote the rational and just allocation and use of the country’s land and natural resources and to harmonize existing land laws. However, resistance to the bill from the real estate sector was too strong.

But the battle is far from over. With the opening of the 16th Congress last 22 July, CLUP Now! commits to once again lobby for the passage of NLUA. CLUP Now! is calling on President Aquino to uphold his commitment to NLUA and proclaim this as a priority bill. ANGOC is a co-convenor of CLUP Now! and will continue to be at the forefront of lobbying for this critical resource management bill.

Read the press release here

Better land administration system no solution to agrarian reform says Land Watch Asia campaign

Owing to poor land records, governments in Asia are now  pushing to improve land administration systems, but while welcome, the move is not a solution to agrarian reform problems, Land Watch Asia said.

“Although land administration may facilitate land reform, it is not in itself the solution,” the loose coalition of civil society groups pushing for land reform said in a paper.

“In the same vein, asset legalization does not complete land reform. Rather, needed are support services for land reform beneficiaries, and land to the landless,” the group said in a report titled “The Prolonged Struggle for Land Rights in Asia.”

Land Watch Asia noted that donor agencies are backing states by choosing to fund programs that facilitate land administration including computerizing land registries and recording system.

In 2007, it said that Sri Lanka launched a Land Title Registration Program to provide secure titles to landowners.

The Indian government has also turned its attention to land administration programs, “sidetracking” the agrarian reform effort, the paper said.

In Cambodia, Land Watch Asia said that Land Administration, Management, and Distribution Program was implemented  with the aim of strengthening land tenure security and promote land markets.

“Land reform in Indonesia has been nothing more than asset legalization and limited land redistribution,” it added.

In a separate paper, Land Watch Asia and the Asian NGO Coalition for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ANGOC) said that indeed some countries in Asia do not have manual land records. Because the records are not digitized, these are subject to wear and tear, and therefore unreliable, according to the paper, “Monitoring Land Reforms in Asia: Status Check.” Read the rest of this entry

Asian governments’ land reform sidetracked by market bias says Land Watch Asia Campaign

Government policies favoring resource-extractive and export-oriented activities have sidetracked agrarian reform programs in some Asian countries at the expense of the poorest and most marginalized of their citizens, said a loose coalition of civil society groups pushing for land reform.

States favor these  “neoliberal economic policies” because they attract foreign investment, Land Watch Asia said in a paper titled  “The Prolonged Struggle for Land Rights in Asia.”

“Governments have lost interest in enforcing redistributive land and resource policies. The politically sensitive task of land redistribution has been shelved in favor of resource-extractive and export-oriented activities, which are easier, instantly gratifying, and lucrative,” the group said. Read the rest of this entry

‘Land rush towards Asia should be regulated’

The land rush towards Asia by rich nations wishing to secure their food needs should be regulated as the trend threatens to reverse agrarian reform gains and  leave communities and resources in the host countries vulnerable to exploitation, said a land reform advocate.

In a paper, Antonio B. Quizon, chairperson of the Asian NGO Coalition for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (Angoc), said governments must develop clear policies on the new wave of land deals from rich countries as these have implications not only on their people’s needs and rights but also food security and the environment.

“It is imperative for citizens to exact transparency and accountability from their government, ensuring the state regulation of foreign investments. The effect should be maximum benefits for the citizens – people’s needs and rights prioritized and protected,” he said.

“Governments must develop clear policies on foreign land investment that engage the overriding interests of the country’ – from food security to environmental sustainability of land and natural resources,” he said in the paper published in Lok Niti, Angoc’s journal. The paper was based on a regional workshop held last year in Bangkok on public- private partnerships for land investments.

Quizon said the trend threatens gains in land reform because the new land deals will increase the concentration of land ownership and access in favor of the foreign investors. “Greater land competition also increases land values, thereby leaving the rural poor outside of land markets,” he said.

He said the new wave of land acquisitions, which had been labeled the “new colonialism” and the “international land grab”, has been driven by rising world food prices that started in the 1990s and peaked in 2006-2008. To secure their food needs these wealthy nations scour for farmlands overseas for the large-scale production of food,  livestock and other products which will feed their citizens.

Another driver for the land rush is the growth of the biofuel industry which has shifted land use from food to biofuel crops, Quizon said.

In Asia, the land rush has been led by rich countries from the Middle East and East Asia, he said. He cited another study which said that as of end-2008, China, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Japan and Saudi Arabia controlled over 7.6 million cultivable hectares overseas.

Quizon said host or target governments welcome the investments into the agriculture sector unmindful the trend could compromise long-term food security.

He blamed the “hunger of global capital” for the land rush as it “commodified” everything – land and water, plants and genes, and even “clean air” in the form of “carbon emission quotas”. “This commodification of land fuels the rush for the world’s farmlands,” he said. Read the rest of this entry

Approval of FAO guidelines tying food security to land reform seen in October


In October, a set of guidelines that will address weaknesses in the enforcement of land reform laws is set to be approved at a UN-backed food security forum. It is hoped the global adoption and enforcement of the guidelines will eventually lead to food security.

In a paper on the proposed guidelines, the Asian NGO Coalition for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ANGOC) pointed out that “landlessness or the lack of secure and equitable access to and control over land, fisheries and forests by local communities has long been argued by civil society groups as one of the major causes of perennial hunger in rural areas.” Read the rest of this entry

Indonesian NGO coalition to stage protest during ASEAN summit


A number of NGOs and university students will stage a demonstration and read a declaration to express their stance on the ASEAN summit. They will hold the protest in front of the consulate general buildings of the US and Japan in Denpasar, since it is impossible to hold it in Nusa Dua where the summit is taking place, due to tight security.

To prepare the declaration, around 20 local institutions participated in a seminar about “building a sovereign regionalism and opposing the domination of global capitalism” in Denpasar on Wednesday.

At the seminar, which was organized by Udayana University’s Law School, they discussed their stance relating to the ASEAN summit, particularly about what is at stake, and a range of issues about East Asia.

They also discussed the impact of ASEAN upon regional security and the Indonesian people in general, as well as the problems facing agricultural, plantation and fishery sectors in connection to the Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

The issue of global capitalism in ASEAN, labor, migrant workers and education were also discussed during the seminar.

M. Teguh Surya from the Indonesian Environment Forum (WALHI) criticized the Master Plan on the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesian Economic Development 2011-2025, which he considered neglected the impact of environmental damage.

“Indonesia, just like other ASEAN countries, has been a supplier of natural resources to global industries, and this is stated in the master plan, but there is no concern regarding the environmental damage resulting from this.”

He said that the document on the acceleration of the economy only favors the interests of advanced countries, such as Japan, Korea and China.

“Indonesia is very prone to natural resource exploitation, which could marginalize 90 percent of its people if there is no protection [from the government].”

He cited the economic acceleration in Bali, which focused on tourism. “Tourism development has caused changes in spatial planning policy, and this is something that could bring the island to collapse. One of the clear examples is the water crisis experienced on the island.”

Bonnie Setiawan, executive director of Alternative to Globalization (RAG) and a researcher with the Institute for Global Justice, said the new regime in ASEAN has allowed neocolonialism to flourish.

“Indonesia, which supplies low-paid laborers and raw materials, is very open to imports and foreign investment from international corporations,” he said.

ASEAN has been part of the global supply chain by “revising their structures, norms and regulations”, he added.#