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Development Conflict: The Philippine Experience

14 November 2002

Development is widely understood and perceived as something that brings about changes for the better. But what can we make of development projects that give rise to conflict? What if development destroys the economic base of the local populace? And what if development creates divisions instead of enhancing unity? And what if this leads to serious animosities among the people or even violent confrontation? Is such development worth it? And can we really call it development?

This study will not try to provide answers to the problems arising from development. It will try to provide the context and give perspectives on the conflict that often accompanies development projects in some communities. It will identify specific cases in which conflict has arisen, between the local people and those running the projects, between the people and the government, and between the people themselves. Historically, indigenous peoples have been oppressed and disenfranchised in the Philippines; this study, therefore, focuses on them.

Three case study areas have been selected from the many places where indigenous communities face disruption from development projects. The first case study is of the Ifugao in north-central Luzon, who has been involved in a long-running conflict with an Australian mining company, Climax-Arimco. The second concerns a government development plan in central Luzon run by the Clark Development Corporation (CDC). The CDC plans to convert the ancestral lands of the Aeta people into agro-industrial and tourism areas. The third case study highlights the struggle of the indigenous Ata-Manobos in Davao del Norte province on the island of Mindanao, southern Philippines. The Ata-Manobos are opposed to a forestry project known as the Integrated Forest Management Agreement (IFMA) in their lands.

The three case studies were chosen to give a geographical balance across the Philippine archipelago. Each represents the micro-situation of an indigenous community. Combined and synthesized, the three cases give a broader picture of the experiences of the indigenous peoples of the Philippines with regard to development projects and the conflicts that often arise as a consequence. In the same way, the three cases are representative of the types of development affecting the indigenous peoples of the Philippines.

Insights and analyses are offered with regard to the development framework adopted by the Philippine government. The study ends with a set of recommendations designed to bring an end to conflict.

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Gerardo Gobrin

Almira Andin