Bukidnon residents protest logging activity in the Philippines, 1987-1989

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Timing
Time Period:  
January
1987
to
September
1989
Location and Goals
Country: 
Philippines
Location City/State/Province: 
Bukidnon province, Manila
Goals: 
A total logging ban in Bukidnon province, financial support for forest guards, and a visit to the province by Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Fulgencio Factoran
 

After President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972, concessions and rights were granted to numerous major forest companies in the Philippines. Certain islands saw more than 70% of their natural forests destroyed, including the Bukidnon province on Mindanao Island, which retained less than 20% of its natural forests by the 1980s. The environmental impact of major deforestation includes increased run-off and erosion, which can deplete local harvests and lead to greater flooding.

In 1987, the people of San Fernando Valley in the Bukidnon province began to understand the connection between increased deforestation and greater flooding. Community members asked local missionaries to conduct classes and workshops on ecology and the impact of depleted tree cover on hydrologic conditions.

Many of the people who attended the workshops were members of Pagbugtaw sa Kamatuoran (PSK), an organization that was founded in the early 1980s in opposition to a dam proposal on the Pulgangi River in Bukidnon. PSK, which means "to be awakened to truth" or "to witness the truth", was successful in getting the dam project postponed and its members continued to fight to protect the land and environment in the province. PSK selected one logging company out of the numerous multi-nationals working in the area to target in their protest. In 1987, PSK sent a petition with 900 signatures to President Aquino asking that the permits granted to C. C. Almendras Enterprises be revoked. Residents complained in the letter accompanying the petition that Almendras was cutting undersized logs and using machines that had been banned in the Philippines because of their overly destructive nature. Additionally, the company was accused of harvesting trees in watershed areas and of not fulfilling their obligation to reforest the area.

In July 1987, a mass and blockade was held in front of San Fernando's municipal hall. Made up of members of PSK and San Fernando residents led by Father Pat Kelly, a Canadian missionary working in the area, the protesters carried signs, sang the national anthem, and stopped trucks from passing major roads to the forests in the mountains. By conducting "citizens' arrests", the actionists stopped ten empty trucks from entering the forests and prevented thirteen fully loaded trucks from delivering their loads. After two weeks, the military arrived and dispersed the protesters by beating them and threatening them with arrest. The logging company had been granted a restraining order, which made the protesters responsible for up to $15,000 of lost revenue per day. Rather than being intimidated by these responses, the protesters were further angered upon learning that the companies were making such huge profits from their resources. Although the provincial government supported the logging company because of revenues from taxes and the role of the company in maintaining local highways, media attention given to the protesters and the military brutality they faced forced the government to temporarily suspend the company's forest permits.

In November 1988, 300 San Fernando residents traveled to the provincial capital and pitched tents in front of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) office for five days. The protesters also conducted a blockade of a two-lane highway, blocking logging trucks from delivering their loads and from traveling to the forests to harvest more trees. In an impressive display of compassion and solidarity with other Filipinos, the protesters shared food with the truck drivers and made sure that their families received sacks of rice. The demands of the protesters included a cancelation of all logging licenses in Bukidnon and a visit from DENR Secretary Fulgencio Factoran to the province. The protesters received a lot of national attention as the battle was depicted as a fight between David and Goliath and a fight against control from foreign multi-national companies that controlled local resources.

In December 1988, Factoran agreed to visit the province. When he arrived, a demonstration of 2000 residents met him. Factoran canceled Alemendras' license and ordered another logging company to stop its activity in a critical watershed area. Although this was a partial victory, the protesters' demands had not been met because logging, both legal and illegal, continued in the province.

In September 1989, twelve residents and Father Pat Kelly traveled to Manila, the capital of the Philippines. They fasted outside the offices of the DENR and declared that they would only end the fast if the government met their demands for a total logging ban for all of Bukidnon. They also demanded financial support for training and employing forest guards to stop the illegal logging activity that was rampant in the area. They sent letters to the Japanese and South Korean governments, asking for their aid in reforestation of the Bukidnon forests. These two countries were the main importers of wood from the province and this action increased the media attention given to the protesters who were known as the Bukidnon 13. After the protesters rejected a meeting with Secretary Factoran until all their demands were met and fasted for eight days, the DENR agreed to a total logging ban and financial support for 20 forest guards. The DENR also agreed to close all illegal lumberyards. The Bukidnon 13 continued their fast for several more days until President Aquino gave her vocal support for a total logging ban in Bukidnon and committed to pursue logging bans in other provinces.

Research Notes
Sources: 
Broad, Robin and Cavanagh, John. Plundering Paradise: The Struggle for the Environment in the Philippines. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

Luna, Maria Paz G. "Enforcing Environmental Laws in a Developing Country: An Alternative Law Approach." Tel Aviv University Studies in Law, 1998.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Nathalie Schils, 02/08/2011