Monday, November 28, 2011

Indigenous communities and civil society groups challenge big business and ASEAN on CSR Framework

Indigenous communities and civil society groups challenge big business and ASEAN on CSR Framework; calls for greater corporate accountability

Bali, Indonesia-Amidst the current worldwide economic crisis and the growing resentment against the so-called corporate greed, representatives of civil society groups and indigenous communities from Southeast Asia expressed their concerns over the wanton disregard by big businesses of the human rights of indigenous peoples, migrant workers and other marginalized groups.

In a public forum on corporate social responsibility (CSR) held in Bali, Indonesia on 25 November 2011 the participants said they were disappointed with how the multinational corporations were given almost free access by ASEAN member governments to take over their ancestral lands.

“Being highly dependent on resource extraction and exploitation for its economic development, majority of the ASEAN countries have directly taken over lands and resources of indigenous peoples and local communities or handed these over to corporations as concessions for mining, plantations, hydropower plants, and resorts,” said Bernice See of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact and Indigenous Peoples Task Force on ASEAN.

The participants also disparaged ASEAN’s vision of a Caring and Sharing Community by 2015 when they said this community seems to exclude the people whose lives, livelihoods, homelands, jobs and futures are being sacrificed for this vision.

“The plethora of cases of human rights violations against the collective rights of indigenous and the human rights of workers, local communities, farmers/peasant, and other marginalized sectors of society does not speak well of a caring and sharing community. Large sections of the ASEAN community bear the burden while the benefits are being enjoyed by a few big corporations,” Ms. See added.

It was agreed in the forum that the present CSR framework espoused and supported by ASEAN should be challenged. “It is of great concern to us that, based on the record of businesses and governments in the South East Asian region, CSR is being used to mask the ill effects of existing business practices in the region. Furthermore, it is also used to hide the collusion of private business interests and governments in the pursuit of profit and economic development,” stressed Corinna Lopa, Regional Coordinator of the South East Asian Committee for Advocacy and Co-Convener of the Solidarity for Asian Peoples Advocacy Working Group on ASEAN.

In her opening speech at the forum, Ms. Lopa also said that they want to see increased corporate accountability in the region, by both domestic and multi-national corporations. She said that greater regulation of the corporate sector by ASEAN member governments should be implemented in order to safeguard the rights of the peoples and communities. “We would like to see enhanced corporate regulatory frameworks in the ASEAN region to ensure the protection of the South East Asian peoples, communities and environment,” she said.

With the take over of their land come the abuses and sufferings

Some of the witnesses, who came from the affected communities in Thailand, Lao PDR, Cambodia, the Philippines and Indonesia, detailed the effects of development projects and abuses committed by the corporations against their peoples and communities.

The Xayabouri Dam Project in the Mekong region:

Will inundate approximately 2,130 people from 10 villages.

Loss of agricultural and riverbank gardens,

Changes to aquatic habitat and ecosystem of the river by blocking fish migration route to upper reaches.Up to 41 fish species would be at risk of extinction, including the critically endangered Giant Mekong Catfish. Impact to Cambodia’s great lake

Impacts on agriculture resource and saline intrusion in Mekong delta

The PT Freeport Mining Operation in Papua, Indonesia

  • Mine tailings containing dangerous chemicals caused various health problems to the people living near the area
  • Several people who opposed the mining operation were beaten and killed. In October 2011, three people were shot dead in the Tanggul Timur Navaro area. The community believes that Freeport security personnel were responsible

The Socfin-KCD Economic Land Concession in Bousra Commune, Mondulkiri, Cambodia

· 2 economic land concessions (ELCs) over 7,000 hectares of indigenous territory in Bousra Commune have been granted to Socfin-KCD for 70 years

· Over 850 families, 90% of them belonging to the Bunong indigenous people face displacement

· The Bunong practice an animist religious belief system that involves the protection of spirit forests and burial grounds of their ancestors

· Destruction of these sacred sites impacts on their freedom to practice their religion which is part of their identity

· The Bunong people’ collective right to free prior and informed consent was not respected by the Government of Indonesia when it granted the ELC as inadequate information was shared, information was not shared in a language fully understood by the affected Bunong communities, and it did not follow the decision-making processes of the Bunong.

The Nickel Mines of Vale Inco in Karonsi’e Dongi in Sorowako, South Sulawesi

· The Vale Inco succeeded the mining concession of PT Inco which has taken over the settlement of the Karonsi’e Dongi of Sorowako, South Sulawesi

· More than 38 years of struggling to take back their land has not produced any sustainable solution to their problem

· The Suharto regime turned over their land to PT Inco without their free prior and informed consent

· The occupation of their ancestral land by PT Inco denies them the right as a people to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions.

There were other reported cases of violations of the collective rights and customary laws of indigenous peoples in the mining projects in the Zamboanga Peninsula in the Philippines and in North Maluku in Indonesia.

Towards the end of the forum, the participants said that they will not let ASEAN and the multinational corporations treat them as victims as they will continue to organize, cooperate and build their own capacities to push for the recognition of their rights and for ASEAN and big business to respect these rights.

There is something that we can do. It is us who will change the situation. It is in our power to change the tide against the exploitation of our resources in our territories,” said Joan Carling, Secretary General of the AIPP.

The forum was organized by the South East Asian Committee for Advocacy (SEACA), the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) and the Institute for Essential Services Reform (IESR) for the Solidarity for Asian Peoples’ Advocacy (SAPA) Working Group on ASEAN, the SAPA Task Force on ASEAN and the Extractive Industries, and the Indigenous Peoples’ ASEAN Task Force.

# # #

November 25, 2011
For more information please contact:

Corinna Lopa,, +639088649695
Bernice See,
Fabby Tumiwa,

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Feeling artista

While walking inside the Prambanan complex I bumped into a bunch of grade schoolers from Jakarta.

Indonesian schoolboy: "Mister, can I ask you a question?"

Me: "Sure, go a ahead."

Indonesian schoolboy: "Where are you from?"

An Indonesian schoolgirl cut in and cheerfully said: "He's Korean!"

Me: "Nope, I'm Filipino."

Upon seeing how disappointed she was with my reply I immediately uttered: "Aku cinta Yogyakarta! Aku cinta Indonesia!" Her eyes lit up and the other kids started bombarding me with questions: "What's your favorite Indonesian food? What's your favorite color?" They then took turns getting pictures with me.

Wow. I felt like a movie star. I was so happy I started singing a song and saw all of them slowly backed away from me and then they scampered in different directions.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Happy Birthday A!

Dear A!:

Congratulations! You are now a tween! Time really flies no?

I remember when you were just an idea. It was a very exciting time for me, for a lot of people. There were tons of meetings and equal number of misunderstanding and 'tampuhan' among your moms and dads. Yes, you were conceived not just by one set of parents but hundreds of brave women and men who fought real hard to have you.

Do you even know that Akbayan was not your original name? hahaha

You have grown and developed so much for the past 13 years that it is no wonder that you gained so many friends. I heard that you are now in the company of very important people. My only hope is that you will not go astray. Never lose focus. I believe you. We believe in you. You have grown up consistently on the straight path that we know you are less likely to succumb to a friend's bad influence.

People say that the teenage years are difficult. Be strong and continue to ask for discernment from the people whom you trust. One other thing, do not forget the men and women who reared you. They may not be with you now but they still love you.


Wednesday, April 07, 2010

2010 election ‘will make or break' Philippines

2010 election ‘will make or break' Philippines
Pandayan para sa Sosyalistang Pilipinas
Chairperson: Boy Nuera
April 6, 2010

In less than five weeks more than fifty million Filipinos will be electing new leaders who will steer the Philippines in the next six years with hope that they will deliver us from the political and economic rut that exacerbate corruption and poverty.

Thus, the May 2010 Elections is a crucial time in our country’s convoluted political history. On June 30, 2010, we expect to see the much awaited departure of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who has reigned for over nine years with her gang; and the proclamation and swearing in of the new leaders. Hence, we must ensure that this first automated election shall be handled in an honest and credible way by the Commission on Elections.

This is a make or break time for the Philippines. This election, if done successfully, represents a clean break from the corrupt and morally bankrupt administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her gang of greedy cronies; a break that will hopefully lead to a positive and new beginning.

Reports have been circulating of a ‘non-proclamation scenario’ due to a general failure of election or a selective failure of election due to the malfunction of precinct counting optical scan (PCOS) and other issues related to automation. We are worried that these machines will fail or will not read or count our votes accurately; some softwares are not reliable; some processes were done in non transparent way; and thousands of extra memory cards for the PCOS machines will be used to load up fake election results. These are serious allegations that the COMELEC should address. A faster way of counting our votes will be meaningless if the processes are under clouds of suspicion. A vote cast but not honestly counted is surely a waste.

Alarming is that we are being conditioned of a military takeover in case of a failure of election. Worst of all, they will install Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as the interim head of a transition government. If these things happen, it is the end of the line for our country. We will surely be in an endless cycle of poverty, moral degradation and political mayhem.

We strongly believe that our democracy, with all its imperfection, is now under attack and Filipinos must fight tooth and nail against these evil plots. We believe that another uprising of the people is not far-fetched should they try these things.

We are urging the Filipino people to guard against any effort to rob us out of our votes through massive cheating or a naked grab of power that will perpetuate GMA and her gang to stay in power. We must show the international community that notwithstanding the election circus that we are in, we, as a nation, can collectively stand up and choose our leaders in a smooth and honest way.