A regional network of Asian human rights commissions and supportive NGOs has issued a strong statement supporting calls for a moratorium on palm oil expansion in the Philippines southern island of Palawan. The call came at the conclusion of a week of fact-finding trips and discussions of the 5th South East Asian Regional Conference on Human Rights and Agribusiness which was hosted by the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, the Coalition on Land Grabbing of the Philippines supported by the Forest Peoples Programme.
During the field investigation and meeting the human rights groups heard testimony from indigenous peoples impacted by palm oil companies which revealed a pattern of forced and fraudulent land sales on indigenous peoples’ territories. Documents examined by the investigators indicated the complicity of government officials in defrauding indigenous peoples of their lands. The Philippines Government’s National Commission on Indigenous Peoples announced it would issue an injunction to halt the operations of the company concerned which has been operating contrary to the provisions of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, which requires that lands can only be taken with the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of indigenous peoples and with the involvement of the Commission.
The conference reviewed experiences with mechanisms for making human rights standards binding on agribusinesses and called for the setting up of a regional human rights court. The meeting also noted that the massive forest fires in Indonesia need to be identified as a human rights violation and addressed with more resolve by the Indonesian government. It called on the Malaysian Government to implement the recommendations of its Commission on Inquiry into the Land Rights of Indigenous Peoples.