After several months of waiting and several incantations to the universe, we had finally managed on February 19, 2008 to file before the Supreme Court our Petition for Certiorari entitled AKBAYAN et. al. vs. YAP, et. al. GR No. 181549 questioning the constitutionality of the RP-China agri-business agreements, including one which deigns to lease to China 1,000,000 hectares of Philippine land and another one which would allow all-around marine cooperation in Philippine marine waters. We hope to obtain a decision that will in the future curtail the sense of impunity of executive officials who hastily enter into international agreements without considering the consequences.
The following are the contracts subject of the Petition:
1. A Memorandum of Understanding granting the lease of 1,000,000 hectares of land to a Chinese corporation for a period of 25 years renewable, for the planting of hybrid rice, hybrid corn and hybrid sorghum (Jilin Fuhua).
2. A Memorandum of Agreement allowing the lease or any agribusiness venture scheme over 40,000 hectares of land to a Chinese corporation for sugarane and cassava (ADGZAR).
3. A Memorandum of Agreement allowing all around marine cooperation on fishing with a Chinsese corporation (GDOFA).
A brief discussion of the constitutional objections to the RP-China Agreements may be found in this old blog entry but there have been developments since that time, as well as flip-flopping on the part of our agencies on even the most basic undertakings in the Agreements.
In December of last year, at a consultation, upon a question as to the nature of lands subject of the petition (the contract merely mentioned “lands legally owned by the Philippines”), the DAR representative replied that the lands would be lands already distributed to agrarian reform beneficiaries and the contract would essentially be with these ARBs, on an individual basis.
However, a month ago, they called another consultation, and this time they did a turn-around and said that the lands to be used would be forest lands covered by tenurial instruments or community-based forest management agreements (CBFMA) . In another turnaround, they previously said that the operational mode would be lease (the contract says lease), and a month ago, they changed their mind to joint venture and co-management.
The Agreement for the 1,000,000 hectares spoke of a credit platform facility for loans repayment. We asked if the investments were really in the form of a loan, they brushed that question aside.
The Agreement granted tariff reductions (at 0% to China!), they told us not to worry because that actually is a good thing.
The consultation meetings, particularly the first one, was a sham from the get-go. Bogus farmer groups were made to attend to bring the attendance to around 300 (an example of this is a big farmer group that forged an unholy alliance with Danding Cojuangco to enter into a compromise on the coco levy deal despite the victory in the Sandiganbayan), and private sector representatives went in full force to laud the merits of the Agreements. Chinese businessmen moved freely among the ranks of Filipino businessmen. No copies of the Agreements were ever given in any of the consultations, despite request, only a overgeneral powerpoint presentation.
Arthur Yap (the guy who said that only treaties concurred in by the Senate may be considered international agreements. haller…..) kept on reiterating that (1) China will allow us to unilaterally change the terms of the SIGNED and BINDING agreements; (2) he only signed because he wanted more investments to come in, and (3) the contacts are suspended so there is nothing for us to worry about.
If anyone knows why, despite the statement that the the RP-China land deals are unilaterally suspended and are SUPPOSEDLY virtually dead anyway, administration congressmen in full force attended the Congressional inquiry on the land deals (supposedly a small and insignificant issue hardly picked up by the news in light of the political crisis) and the Arroyo brothers were both visibly present in that hastily-scheduled hearing — please let me buy you coffee. 🙂
The PDF file of the entire petition is here (please note that this is a pdf copy of the final MS Word draft, not a copy of what was submitted to the Supreme Court bearing the Court’s stamp. Been trying to tinker with it for hours, but for some reason, that file was too heavy to be uploaded. The layout in the Supreme Court received copy is better, but the content is exactly the same):