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Palawan Oil Palm Plantations and Land Grabbing , Philippines


In 1990 the Island of Palawan was declared “Man and Biosphere Reserve” by UNESCO. Considered the ‘last ecological frontier’ of Philippines, it preserves the largest contiguous forest block in the country. However, in recent years mining projects and oil palm plantations in south Palawan are posing a threat on environment and local communities.

At national level, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources had planned the conversion of 15,000 – 20,000 ha into oil palm plantations through private initiative with the objective of reducing the dependence on imports and modernize the agricultural sector. Since 2003, the Provincial Government of Palawan is strongly promoting this agribusiness. The project is mainly operated by two companies: 1) Palawan Palm & Vegetable Oil Mills, Inc. (60% Singaporean and 40% Filipino-owned), and 2) Agumil Philippines, Inc. (75% Filipino-owned and 25% Malaysian). Their parent company is Malaysian Agusan Plantations Inc. Also, in recent years, a construction company, Cavite Ideal International Construction and Development Corporation, is entering the agribusiness becoming a land grabber itself. Until 2015, about 6,000 hectares of land have already been converted into oil palm plantations in the municipalities of Soforino Española, Brooke’s Point, Bataraza, Rizal, Quezon, Aborlan and Narra, all of them in South Palawan, with a negative impact on the livelihoods of indigenous peoples and traditional and subsistence farmers. Local organizations have denounced that plantations have caused the collapse of family based economies, disappearance of non timber forest products (NTFPs) in which local economy relied, loss of agricultural land and crop diversity, obliterated traditional swidden practices, decrease of food security, loss of forests, limitations of free movement to reach upland fields and forests, exponential increase of pests over the traditional coconut crops, loss of biodiversity, loss of medicinal plants, increment of flash flood events, depletion of plantation soils, pollution of river sources and coastal area and health hazards caused by chemicals used in plantations. Affected communities claim that administrations like the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development are not assuming their role on efficiently monitoring the project’s socio-ecological impact, and that indigenous peoples have not given the necessary free and prior informed consent over their ancestral land. In addition, farmers engaged by contracts with oil palm companies have raised complaints about the unfair conditions and the lack of transparency to seal the agreements.

Opposition to this project has been lead by local indigenous organization ALDAW (Ancestral Land/Domain Watch) since 2009. In 2014 indigenous people and traditional farmers formed the Coalition Against Land Grabbing (CALG). Other advocacy groups from Philippines and abroad have supported these local movements, including the local Bishop. Affected communities are opposing the project through several initiatives such as the submission on 2014 of a petition for a moratorium on oil palm expansion signed by more than 4,200 farmers and indigenous people, the filing of affidavits against plantations by local communities, campaigning to pressure UNESCO to preserve the island, collecting geotagging and audio-visual evidences on oil palm expansion, publicating reports, launching international on-line petitions and creating awareness campaigns among affected communities, among others.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Palawan Oil Palm Plantations and Land Grabbing , Philippines
State or province:Southern Palawan Province; Palawan Island
Location of conflict:Municipalities of Soforino Española, Brooke’s Point, Bataraza, Rizal, Quezon, Aborlan and Narra.
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Specific commodities:Palm oil

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The Filipino Government has estimated that 15,000 – 20,000 ha of south Palawan will be dedicated to oil palm plantation. In 2015, about 6,000 ha have already been converted.

The project is operated at different levels by several types of private investors. Two companies lead the investment: Palawan Palm & Vegetable Oil Mills, Inc. (PPVOMI), which purchased 13 ha in Maasin, municipality of Brooke’s Point, to build an oil palm mill and a nursery and Agumil Philippines, Inc. (AGPI), which has access to land for cultivation through either purchase of land or contracted arrangements with smallholder farmers.

Smallholder farmers are themselves investors as well, either as small cooperatives or individually. They make 25-years-long arrangements with AGPI in a so-called outgrower scheme, where farmers provide the land and manpower and assume all the financial and managerial risk and legal labor responsibilities. AGPI provides seedlings and technical know-how, charging farmers a 10% management fee on its services and a 14% interest rate on delayed payments from farmers. Land Bank of Philippines offers those farmers 80% of the financial assistance, while AGPI provides the remaining assistance they need (at high interest). Most of the farmers engaged in the project are now at risk of economic collapse, fearing of losing their land if they’re unable to afford the loan payments.

The mill established in Maasin will process crude palm oil and palm kernel, with a milling capacity of 90 tonnes fresh fruit bunches per hour. According to information available in 2013, the facility will discharge its waste directly into the Maasin river, which is used for fishing by the local communities and a source of drinking water, thus creating a negative socio-environmental impact.

PPMOVI has obtained the environmental clearance for the oil mill and the nursery. However such clearance doesn’t apply to the total extent of the cultivation area. The Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) has performed irregular monitoring over the mill and nursery. No evaluation of environmental impacts has been done in the plantations. In fact, PCSD established that the environmental impact of oil palm plantations is identical to that of any other agricultural activity.

Project area:15,000-20,000
Level of Investment:11,580,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:15,000
Start of the conflict:2007
Company names or state enterprises:Agumil Philippines, Inc (AGPI)
Palawan Palm & Vegetable Oil Mills Inc (PPVOMI)
Agusan Plantations Group from Malaysia - Parent company of AGPI and PPVOMI
Cavite Ideal International Construction and Development Corporation (CAVDEAL) from Philippines
Green Power Palawan
Relevant government actors:Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)
Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO)
Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD)
National Commission on Indigenous Peoples’ (NCIP)
Palawan Provincial Office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP)
Palawan Palm Oil Industry Development Council (PPOIDC)
Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA)
Philippine Oil Palm Development Office (PODO)
International and Finance InstitutionsLand Bank of the Philippines from Philippines - Financing of smallholder farmers
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:- Ancestral Land/Domain Watch, ALDAW: [email protected];;
- Coalition against Land Grabbing (CALG)
- Rainforest Rescue (
- World Rainforest Movement (
- ICCA Consortium (
- Survival International (
- Bishop Pedro Arrigo
- Environmental Legal Assistance Centre (
- Palawan NGOs Network Inc. (
- Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (
- On-line campaigns and petitions:;

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Official complaint letters and petitions


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Other Health impacts
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Other environmental related diseases
Other Health impactsChemicals in oil palm plantations
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Other socio-economic impactsCrop pests, exacerbation of rural poverty, decrease in numbers of non-timber forest products, loss of medicinal plants, violations of indigenous' peoples rights


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Migration/displacement
Development of alternatives:- Implementation of more restrictive regulations on oil palm development to halt deforestation, habitat destruction, food scarcity, and violation of indigenous peoples’ rights.
- Moratorium over oil palm plantations.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The project is still operative and on going, although there is resistance.

Sources & Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)

Provincial Ordinance No. 739-04, Palawan

Executive Order no.23: the nationwide ban on the cutting of trees in natural and residual forest

Presidential Degree (PD) No. 1468: "Revised Coconut Industry Code"

Certificate of Precondition of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act 8371 (IPRA): section 59

Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) for Palawan Act (Republic Act 7611)

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

The Palawan Oil Palm Geotagged Report 2013 (Part I). ALDAW and Rainforest Rescue.

‘The emerging oil palm agro-industry in Palawan, the Philippines: Livelihoods, environment and corporate accountability’. Stockholm Environment Institute, Working Paper 2014-03.

The Palawan Oil Palm Geotagged Report 2013 (Part II). ALDAW and Rainforest Rescue.

WRM, Philippines: The increasing menace of oil palm plantations in Palawan (2012)

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Informative note of the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples

ICCA Consortium

World Rainforest Movement


Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

VIDEO: 'Oil pal aggression on Palawan UNESCO Mand & Biosphere Reserve' (ALDAW)

Meta information

Contributor:Andreia Francés Silva, Master Gestión Fluvial Sostenible y Gestión Integrada de Aguas, Asignatura ‘Ecología política y gestión de Aguas’
Last update08/02/2016