This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
LAND RIGHTS, LAND DEALS
IN THE RIGHT TO FOOD
OF PEASANTS AND INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
By Aurea Miclat-Teves
Vice President, FIAN International
President, FIAN Philippines
Executive Director, Project Development Institute for Asia, Inc.
I. What is the right to food?
The Right to Food is best described by the following:
“The right to adequate food is realized when every man, woman and child, alone or in community with others,
has physical and economic access at all times to adequate food or the means for its procurement.”
Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
The right to food is a human right. It protects the right of all human beings to live in dignity, free from hunger,
food insecurity and malnutrition. There are three important elements of the right to food: (1.) Availability –
requires that food should be available from natural resources, either through the production of food, by
cultivating land or animal husbandry, or through fishing, hunting, gathering. It also means that food should be
available for sale in markets and shops. (2) Accessibility – requires that economic and physical access to food
should be guaranteed. Economic accessibility means that food is affordable. It must also be guaranteed to
people in remote places. (3) Adequacy – food must satisfy dietary needs. Food should be safe for human
consumption and free from adverse contaminants from industrial and agricultural processes, including residues
from pesticides, hormones or veterinary drugs. Adequate food should also be culturally acceptable. (For
example food that is a religious or cultural taboo for the consumers or inconsistent with their eating habits
would be culturally unacceptable.)
The right to food is not about charity, but about ensuring that all people have the capacity to feed themselves in
This right is protected under human rights and international humanitarian law and the correlative state
obligations are equally well-established under international law. The right to food is recognized in the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
(ICESCR), as well as a plethora of other international instruments. Noteworthy is also the recognition of the
right to food in numerous national constitutions.
It is generally accepted that the right to food implies three types of state obligations - the obligation to respect,
protect and to fulfil. These types of obligations were defined in General Comment 12 by the Committee on
ESCR and endorsed by states, when the FAO Council adopted the Right to Food Guidelines (Voluntary
Guidelines) in November 2004.
The obligation to respect requires governments not to take any measures that arbitrarily deprive people of their
right to food, for example by measures preventing people from having access to food. The obligation to protect
means that states should enforce appropriate laws and take other relevant measures to prevent third parties,
including individuals and corporations, from violating the right to food of others. The obligation to fulfil
(facilitate and provide) entails governments being pro-actively engaged in activities intended to strengthen
people’s access to and utilization of resources so as to facilitate their ability to feed themselves. As a last resort,
whenever an individual or group is unable to enjoy the right to adequate food for reasons beyond their control,
states have the obligation to fulfil that right directly.
The Philippine Constitution has a provision that states that the Philippines “adopts the generally accepted
principles of international law as part of the law of the land.” International treaties are legally binding on those
States that ratify or accede to them.
We have ratified most of the major international treaties.
has unconditionally accepted the human rights legal system.
To sum up, the right to food means that governments must not take actions that result in increasing levels of
hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition. It also means that governments must protect people from the actions
of powerful others that might violate the right to food. States must also, to the maximum of available resources,
invest in the eradication of hunger.
III. Land Rights: Agrarian Reform and Indigenous Peoples’ Ancestral Domains
The implementation of CARP over the past 20 years by both the DAR and the DENR is far from completion,
posting an average accomplishment of 83 percent. (See Table 1).
Table 1. Land Distribution Accomplishment as of June 2009
% Accomplishment Number of
DAR 5,163,751 4,119,196 80 2,396,096
DENR 3,837,999 3,317,311 85 2,223,133
Total 9,001,750 7,436,507 (av.) 83 4,619,229
Sources: DAR, 2009 and Bernabe, 2010
Declarations, like the UDHR, principles, guidelines, standard rules and recommendations have no binding effect. However, these
have undeniable moral force, and provide practical guidance to States in their conduct. Reporting to the appropriate Treaty
Bodies is an obligation of a State which is Party to any of the Treaties. The General Comments made by the U.N. Committee on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on how States Parties could best discharge their obligations are also examples of this kind.
The Philippines is State Party to the International Bill of Rights consisting of the UDHR, ICCPR , with its First Protocol, and the
ICESCR; the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Convention on
the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against
Women, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant
Workers and Members of Their Families, The Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities, among others.
Land reform and land management in the country has long been established as having very little appreciable
impact on poverty, productivity or investments in the agricultural sector (Habito 2003; Reyes 2003; Balisacan
2007). The process suffers from a loose legal framework where rights can be informally transferred through
direct sale, waiver of beneficiary rights, sale through pawning, or an altogether abandonment of land. Post-
redistribution, beneficiaries suffer from the lack of appropriate support services that many are pushed to seek
alternative livelihood elsewhere, increasing the involvement of rural folk in non-farm activities.
The difficulties of transforming agrarian assets to new economic values for sustaining livelihoods and
developing rural areas have induced younger population bias towards urban areas and foreign countries for
employment. Meanwhile, an undetermined number of agrarian reform beneficiaries have already divested
themselves of ownership rights and control due to urgent needs for survival and difficulty in fulfilling their
The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) has been extended by another five years with a budget
of PhP 100 billion to cap 20 years of unfulfilled intentions. Much of the budget is intended for support services
and less on acquisition of private agricultural lands still in the hands of resisting landowners. There is likelihood
that landless claimants and many who have divested themselves of acquired lands will no longer benefit from
The enactment of Republic Act No. 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997 signified the state’s
positive response to civil society advocacy for indigenous people’s rights.
Under the IPRA, the ancestral domain claims have been broadened to include:
ancestral domain claims have been broadened to include:
“…land, inland waters, coastal areas and natural resources therein held under a claim of ownership, occupied
or possessed…by their ancestors communally or individually since time immemorial…” and… “ancestral
lands, forests, pasture, residential, agricultural and other lands individually owned whether alienable or
disposable or otherwise, hunting grounds, burial grounds, worship areas, bodies of water, mineral and other
natural resources and lands which may no longer be exclusively occupied…” by IPs (Sec. 3a, IPRA).
The scope of IP ancestral claims may actually extend beyond the 5 million hectares nationwide.
The IPRA has offered hope to IPs, often inducing large claims that the claimants are powerless to pursue and
instigating counter-claims of more powerful forces in society. Internally, the NCIP may be described as one of
the most marginalized agencies of government. Its technical, scientific, financial and other resource capabilities
are extremely deficient such that it targets only one CADT approval per year per province.
In many sub-
As yet, there is no accurate count of the number of agrarian reform beneficiaries who have informally sold their lands. A proxy indicator could
be the accumulation of unpaid amortization. However, the Land Bank of the Philippines has not yet published the figures referring to this
Interview with the NCIP Regional Director in Koronadal City.
provincial field offices, the staff still writes on yellow pads instead of on computers. Even the agency’s own
information requirements for effective administration are wanting. In Region 12, the NCIP Regional Office in
Koronadal City has only one survey equipment.
The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) has already approved 38 Certificates of Ancestral
Domain Titles (CADTs). Most of the CADT areas have ancestral domain sustainable development protection
plans (ADSDPPs) that require tremendous financial resources and social muscle for enforcement. In many
areas, especially Mindanao, most CADTs and lands being claimed by indigenous peoples are under stress from
mining claims and operations and intrusions from timber companies and migrant settlers. Most are mired in
conflicts that are detrimental to the rights and claims of indigenous communities. Due to their topography and
geographic locations, most CADT areas are also arenas of armed conflict between the government, rebels and a
variety of armed groups involved in protection rackets and illegal extraction of natural resources.
IV. Agrarian Reform, IPRA and Human Rights Issues
Violent conflicts escalates when the political elites have a direct economic interest on the land in question or the
actual and potential economic benefits from its use. In Mindanao’s Caraga Region, the volatility of mining
partly arises from the direct interest of provincial political elites in the industry. This clashes directly with the
interests of non-state actors, like the CPP-NPA, which also exact “revolutionary taxes” from mining (forestry
and other) companies. This is also one reason why the national government has taken additional steps to
provide security to mining investments. In February 2008, the president approved the creation of the Investment
Defense Force (IDF) as a facility for investors, especially mining investors, to defend their investments by use
There is still no full accounting of land-related killings, destruction of homes and crops and killing and stealing
of livestock. Most would be subsumed in the statistics of death, destruction and displacement due to the chronic
armed conflict. Since the 1970s until the present, most would be explained as consequences of a conflict rather
than a function of the causes of that conflict. Only recently and only a few NGOs in the Philippines have given
attention to human rights violations related to land and the level and quality of documentation is dependent on
the presence of local NGOs in the same advocacy arena.
Based on the study conducted by PARRDS in 2007, there is an increasing number of cases of human rights
violations victimizing farmers, communities and social movement supporters as they assert their land claims
under CARP and other rights under the Constitution and international human rights covenants. (See Table
The table shows that 382 cases of human rights violations have been accounted victimizing about 18,966 people
from 2001 to 2006.
Summary of Human Rights Violations from 2001 to 2006
CASES Number of Incidents Number of Victims
Source: Business World, May 9, 2008.
1. Killings 25 33
2. Frustrated killings 19 122
3. a. harassment 31 1,072
b. criminalization of AR
4. Violent Dispersal 3 518
5. Forced Eviction 1 245
6. Illegal work dismissal 2 47
7. Arrest and detention 20 346
8. Divestment of property 5 5
9. Physical Assault 3 176
10. Evacuation 7 15,583
11. Destruction of property 8 150
12. Frustrated Abduction 2 2
13. Illegal search 1 1
14. Disappearance 1 1
15. Economic displacement 1 123
Total 382 18,966
Recent trends show that human rights violations are linked to land and forests. This is induced by the lack of
completion of CARP and IPRA and the overlaps with other national policies like the promotion of mining and
corporate-led agribusiness. The violations are getting rampant also because of loopholes in the CARP and IPRA
and the inability of the government to create disincentives for HR violations. One expects impunity in HR
violations when no one is punished for perpetrating the act. In fact, most violators are able to hide behind other
laws if only to preempt the land claims of the poor. In many cases, for example, big landowners are able to
twist land claims by ARBs into criminal offenses, putting farmers on the defensive. The cost of llegal defence
(which farmers can hardly afford without NGO support) becomes a disincentive to pursue their rightful claims.
1. The ADSDPP for the CADT-068 (22,400 hectares covering the barangays of Belbel, Burgos, Moraza, and
Villar) is an instrument wherein the Aetas have meaningfully participated in crafting their future. Thus, an
outstanding process exemplifying IP ownership and the exercise of their right to self-determination.
The CADT areas projected for food production and indigenous goods are the same areas being explored for
mining and extraction of ores. Current trends show a good number of field activities in Baytan (eastern
barangays in Botolan, Zambales) for mining prospecting by investors. Due to hunger and poverty, some Aeta
leaders are bribed to help investors, which is an alarming development. Apparently, the NCIP with the Aetas
has no capacity to implement the ADSDPP due to lack of resources and know how. As of this writing, a lot of
investors are courting Aeta leaders in their respective areas in Baytan to accompany mining investors in their
ancestral domain areas. Barangay officials are the usual lead personalities in this negotiation with tribal leaders.
2. Shrinking of Means and Capacities for Food Production and Acquisition
This used to be a mangrove forest in Coron, Palawan. It is now turned into a commercial-residential area – a
shift from fisheries to tourism and commerce. (photo taken from Google Earth, 2011)
3. A large portion of rice fields in the lowland ecosystems, coastal resources as well as the marine resources are
directly hit by extractive industries operating in Zambales.
4. Foreign direct investments (FDI) in land for food export and biofuel production have become a growing trend
in the south (e.g. Dole Plantation, Del Monte) with the resulting displacement of small farmers from agrarian
reform areas, including the issuance of land concessions and leases for tree plantations over large areas and for
excessive periods by the government to transnational corporations.
V. Threatened Food Security.
In 2008, Gallup International Voice of the People ranked the Philippines as the fifth country in the world with
the most number of hungry people, half of whom were women and children. Many Filipinos cannot meet their
basic food needs because the daily minimum wage has not kept pace with rising food prices. On the supply
side, a major problem faced by the food industry is the unproductive and underutilized agricultural lands
resulting from unsound agricultural practices, which strip the land of its nutrients, resulting in poor yields.
According to SWS (Social Weather Stations), a growing number of Filipinos are experiencing hunger and
poverty. Its latest survey in the first quarter of 2011 shows that one in five Filipino families, claimed to have
gone hungry at least once in the past three months, while 51 percent considered themselves poor, The hunger
figure translates to an estimated 4.1 million families, up from 3.4 million families recorded in November.
Meanwhile, 40 percent or around 8.2 million families considered themselves as food-poor.
Staving-off hunger accounts for more than half of the daily income of farming families. For agrarian reform
beneficiaries and indigenous people, this expenditure stream impacts on their ability to amortize land and/or
make reinvestments to increase productivity and raise income.
The lack of adequate land and secure access to land and natural resources by the rural and urban poor is one of
the main causes of hunger and poverty in the Philippines.
VI. Reactions and Responses: Call to Action
The FIAN Paper on CSOs' Proposals for the FAO Guidelines on Responsible Governance of Land and natural
Resources says that “Conflicts over land and natural resources and related human rights violations are growing
and are the result of a wide range of structural and contextual factors: Land and resource grabbing, and the (re)
concentration of access to land, forests, fishing grounds, water sources (freshwater and marine) and other
natural resources are accelerating as a result of the dominant development model that thrives on industrial
monocrop agriculture (e.g. agrofuel), industrial tourism, fishing and ranching, large scale mining and energy
production, destructive industrial and infrastructure projects, rapid unplanned urbanization and needless
Further, FIAN states that governments that are party to the various human rights treaties have the obligation to
respect, protect and fulfil the enshrined rights. The obligation to respect means that States must refrain from
interfering directly or indirectly in the exercise and enjoyment of people's human rights. Thus states and all their
representatives must not carry out, sponsor or tolerate human rights violations (for example forced evictions and
destroying a community's access to land and natural resources).
Given that all human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated, the governance of land
and natural resources should not only take into account rights directly linked to land and natural resource access
and use such as in the case of rights to housing, property, livelihood, food and water, but also civil and political
rights that are indispensable to the exercise of human rights (such as right to personal freedom and security).
Thus, in order for sustainable development to be achieved, there is a need to develop a national and
international framework of governance using the rights-based approach for shared and self governed lands,
water bodies, spaces and territories.
There is a need to generate information on land use and misuse to help and push the government to improve
land institutions and land governance.
We should demand that the Philippine government in its state obligation should respect, protect and fulfill the
right to adequate food of every Filipino.
We further demand the following:
1. Develop the Comprehensive Land Use Plan at the municipal and provincial level. This can serve as the
basis for the governance framework of the LGU with civil society participation. These plans should clearly
identify the respective organic functions of the LGU, the NGOs, the private sector and other stakeholders.
2. People-Initiated Call for a National Land Use Act. The whole problem with land deals, land grabs and
food insecurity starts with the absence of a national land use policy. As a result, existing laws that have to do
with land are subject to conflicting interpretations, and thus, their non-implementation. This is the experience
with the IPRA and Mining Act and so with the other laws pertaining to the utilization of land and its resources.
3. Establishment of local and national alliances that will dialogue, lobby and advocate to push for the
National Land Use Act and enabling laws that will respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of every
4. Most importantly, to use the RBA in governance in dealing with the government. A Rights-based
approach framework introduces the concept that:
- it is the duty of the state to assure its constituents with life of dignity
- by providing reasonable access to the means towards achieving such goal.
- that a common dimension of different perspectives to governance, include: accountability, transparency,
participation, rule of law, quality of regulatory framework, and effectiveness.
- Good governance is when state performs its duties towards all claimholders with fairness and equity.
B I B L I O G R A P H Y
“Equal Land Rights for Women Worldwide!”, http://www.fian.org/news/press-releases/equal-land-rights-
“Dakar Appeal Against the Land Grab”, http://www.fian.org/news/press-releases/dakar-appeal-against-
The Rights-Based Approach on Good Governance, edited by Aurea G. Miclat-Teves
Rosset, Peter. Food Sovereignty and Alternative Paradigms to Confront Land Grabbing and the Food and
Frova, Giulia and Harcourt, Wendy. Governance, Land and Development, Book Review.
Heinrich, Wolfgang, Kaiser, Wolfgang, Kirleis, Edda et al.
Dealing with Conflicts – Changing Perspectives –
Land Grab? The Race for The World’s Farmland – edited by Micheal Kugelman and Susan L. Levenstein
Guttal, Shalmali. Whose Lands? Whose Resources?
Zoomers, Annelies. Introduction - Rushing for Land: Equitable and Sustainable Development in Africa, Asia
and Latin America
Rice Land Grabs Undermine Food Sovereignty in Africa http://www.grain.org/articles/?id=46
Servaes, Sylvia and Zupan, Natascha. New Horizons – Linking Development Cooperation and Transitional
Justice for Sustainable Peace.
The Right to Adequate Food, http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/FactSheet34en.pdf
Civil Society Organizations’ Proposals for the FAO Guidelines on Responsible Governance of Land and
Natural Resources Tenure
Guttal, Shalmali and Leonard, Rebecca and Manahan, Mary Ann. Global Land Grabs – Investments, Risks and
Lara, Francisco et al. The Other Inconvenient Truths – Report of the National Conference on Asset Reform and
Voluntary Guidelines to Support Progressive Realization of the Right to Adequate Food in the Context of
National Food Security. http://www.fao.org/docrep/meeting/009/y9825e/y9825e00.htm
VG on Land & Natural Resources Tenure,
Second Quarter 2009 Social Weather Survey – July 27, 2009, http://www.sws.org.ph/pr090727.htm
Golay, Christophe, Hirsch, Tomas et. al., The Global Food Challenge: Towards a Human Rights Approach to
Max de Mesa, EED-LGG brieing Paper, 009.
Aurea Miclat-Teves, Twenty Years of CARP: Effects and Impact, 2009.
Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, 1997.
Comprehensive Agrarian reform Program (CARP), 1986.
The Philippine Constitution,, Section I.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.