THE MOOD in the chapel on the outskirts of Malaybalay, capital of Bukidnon province was somber. Six datu (chiefs) and several delegates of the indigenous tribal Lumad people of the region were airing their concerns about a controversial New Zealand-backed $5.7 million forestry aid project for the Philippines. Ironically, less than 100 metres away, in a derelict building nestling amid a plantation of benguet pines on land earmarked for the project, were living about 80 “squatters” who in a sense symbolised the problem at the root of the scheme. Squatters would be the term used by some New Zealand officials and their technical advisers. But it was hardly appropriate, and reflected the insensitivity to many of the social and economic problems in the province. The homeless people belonged to the Bukidnon Free Farmers and Agricultural Labourers’ Organisation, or Buffalo, as it was generally known. Their story was one of injustice, victimisation and harassment, only too common in the Philippines.
The opening two paragraphs of Chapter 14 in David Robie's 2014 book Don't Spoil My Beautiful Face: Media, Mayhem and Human Rights in the Pacific (Auckland: Little Island Press) summarising his investigation in 1989/1990 into the the controversial $6 million New Zealand forestry aid programme in Bukidnon province, Mindanao, Philippines with a series of articles published in The Dominion and the NZ Listener and other publications.
Robie, D. (2014). A cloud over Bukidnon forest. Chapter 14 in Robie, D., Don't Spoil My Beautiful Face: Media, Mayhem and Human Rights in the Pacific (pp. 174-183). Available at: ResearchGate