CCSEAS Conference 2021 : Everyday Forms of Land Appropriation and Natural Resources Control in Southeast Asia: Multiple Views, Sites and Dynamics

Convenor & Chair: Dominique Caouette, Université de Montréal

Discussant/Intervenant: John Devlin, University of Guelph


Today, many forms of appropriation of territorially based resources are at play in countries of the South. Beyond the conversion of vast areas of land into different uses such as agribusiness, mining projects, and urban development, the intensification of land transactions at all scales remains a major issue. However, this phenomenon is far from new, only taking new forms in a context of economic revaluation of land and financialization of the resource economy. In fact, the rise in land values—which has triggered a new land rush—and the heightened interest for some strategic natural resources is closely related to the presence of new international, national, and local actors exerting pressure on the markets. Yet any attempt to transform resource access, especially when regulatory frameworks remain weak, bears important implications for local populations who are highly dependent on these resources for their very existence. Following the latest wave of international land grabs in the 2000s, many influential voices in the field of land politics have expressed the urgent need to better understand the ongoing processes of territorially based resource appropriation and their attendant changes in resource access regimes. Our panel looks at the processes in different areas of Southeast Asia and various types of land acquisitions and use: mining, agribusiness, tourism, and conservation.

Canadian Mines, Ancestral Domains, and Indigenous Self-determination in the Philippines

Angela Asuncion, University of Guelph

The Canadian mining industry has historically been scrutinized for exploitative operations in the Global South, particularly in the mineral-rich nation of the Philippines. Canadian multi-national corporations (MNCs) are known for causing extensive ecological devastation and exhausting areas of its social and culturally valuable resources. With over 60 per cent of mines operating in ancestral territories in the Philippines, clashing worldviews on land ownership have driven violent confrontations between Indigenous communities, governments, and corporations. Increasing conflict in mining regions has manifested community militarization, extrajudicial killings, and the erosion of Indigenous self-determination. Despite growing pressures against MNC mining, Canadian governments and corporations demonstrate resistance to binding regulatory reform in the mining sector. Instead, voluntary accountability mechanisms under the umbrella of corporate social responsibility have become the primary instruments overseeing mining externalities. Our research examines the nuances of Canadian mining behaviour and the effectiveness of CSR mechanisms within local host communities in the Philippines.

Sustainability and Community Agency: An Analysis of Maricalum Mining Corp. (1942–2019) in Negros Occidental, Philippines

John Edison Ubaldo, University of the Philippines and Dominique Caouette, Université de Montréal

Mining projects arguably provide opportunities to enhance the economic and social infrastructure of local communities but once mines are closed, oftentimes abandoned, corporate responsibility for rehabilitation and detoxification are often neglected. Such was the case for the Sipalay copper project on the island of Negros Occidental, Philippines. The Maricalum Mining Corp. (MMC) mine operated from 1942 until 2001, almost 60 years. Yet, when it closed down, no funds for infrastructural protections were allocated and developed for decontamination and land regeneration. The paper aims to offer a nuanced and counterintuitive perspective on the issue of sustainable mining development during and after the operation of MMC. Highlighting the various local understandings of these two periods, more specifically around peoples’ livelihoods, environmental sustainability, and municipal revenues, we show how people directed affected by MMC understood quite clearly the positive and negative consequences at the community, governmental, and corporate levels. As time passed, affected families and hamlets learned to maximize possible gains while minimizing negative consequences, revealing a significant agency when dealing with a financially powerful and politically influential external force.