Recent years have seen an exponential increase in land deals across the Philippines with the conversion of large expanses of land with crops mainly intended for export. Meanwhile, traditional upland farming practices implemented through swidden ('slash-and-burn') technology--known locally as kaingin or more appropriately uma--are demonized and antagonized through restrictive legislation. This is despite the fact that the latter fosters local self-sufficiency and plays a fundamental role in the livelihoods and worldviews of Indigenous societies.
Palawan, known as the "Philippine last Frontier", in spite of its unique recognition as a UNESCO Man & Biosphere Reserve, has not been spared from massive investments in extractive resources and industrial agriculture, especially oil palm and rubber. And yet, Indigenous Peoples and upland dwellers continue to be blamed for causing massive deforestation and ecological disaster.
Not surprisingly, the recent front cover of a well known Philippine Newspaper (The Daily Inquirer, May 9 issue) holds a headline accompanied by a powerful image that easily conflates all upland peoples as criminal agriculturalists.