Bougainville’s President Momis teams-up with Filipino execs slammed in human rights scandal
Bougainville’s President John Momis has engaged the ABG in a joint-venture with Filipino executives allegedly involved in land-grabbing, violence against landowners, illegal labour practices, and environment breaches...
Bougainville’s social media has recently been full of speculation after questions were raised about the company, Bougainville POGE Development Ltd.
The company is a joint-venture between the Autonomous Bougainville Government and POGE Development Corporation. Apparently the relationship was facilitated by the ABG’s development adviser, Global Seagate, a Hong Kong based hedge fund and private equity firm.
The venture was launched by President Momis at the end of 2013 in the Philippines, where he asked ‘educated, technically qualified’ Filipinos to ‘come and help us’ Bougainvilleans who lack ‘expertise and capital’.
Incorporated several months later as Bougainville POGE Development Ltd, the ABG owns 30% of the company, while POGE Development Corporation has a 70% stake.
The majority owner of the joint-venture, POGE Development Corporation, is a Filipino company. Its senior management team are all shareholder-directors of Bougainville POGE Development Ltd, as is John Momis, Michael Oni and Albert Punghau (see Table 2 below). More worryingly POGE Development Corporation’s Chairman, Executive Vice President and Senior Vice President are also senior figures in the hugely controversial A Brown Company, a business group with significant interests in mining, oil palm and real estate.
A Brown Company stands accused of land-gabbing, terrorising landowners, and attacking environmental defenders in the Philippines.
In a 2012 report [21MB pdf file] by the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, it was observed, ‘the A Brown Company, Inc. (ABCI) is a large corporation owned by the Filipino-American businesspeople Walter W. Brown and Annabelle Brown’ (Walter W Brown is a shareholder-director in Bougainville POGE, he is also Chairman of POGE Development Corporation, the majority owner of Bougainville POGE Development). Through its subsidiaries, A Brown Company has set up large oil palm operations in the Philippines.
According to the report, rural land was accessed by A Brown Company’s subsidiary ABERDI through promises of development:
‘The company promised the community a hospital, educational scholarships and other social services. A. Brown also promised not to force those who did not want to relinquish their lands to do so. In the long run, the company did not keep any of its promises. A. Brown instead committed various human rights violations’.
The report continues:
‘Among the violations against the indigenous peoples rights included destruction of crops, burning of houses, arrests, imprisonment, shootings, death threats and the desecration of sacred sites. These transgressions were committed by A Brown after it began its operations’.
‘furthermore, adverse health and environmental effects [from the palm oil plantation] were reported. These were due to pesticide use in the palm oil plantation. In Opol, residents have observed the outbreak of diseases including cough, colds and skin disorders that they attribute to A. Brown’s chemical use. The plantation workers have either insufficient or no protective equipment at all. They are also uninformed about the effects of pesticide application’.
Of particular concern is the fate of those who are exposing the impacts of A Brown’s palm oil operations. According to the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, environment defender Gilbert Paborada was shot in the head after a prolonged campaign against A Brown on behalf of his Higaonon tribe. Shortly before his execution Paborada allegedly received death threats from A Brown Company representatives. A Brown Company denies any involvement in the killing.
Yet rather than repudiate the firm which stands accused of serious, repeat human rights abuses, President John Momis has courted and celebrated their achievements. Following a visit to A Brown Company’s facilities earlier this year, Bougainville’s President made the following remark:
‘Bougainville can have a set up like the one at ABERDIN [A Brown’s subsidiary implicated in numerous human rights violations] … We have a lot of arable land that we can use for extensive [oil palm] agricultural development’.
Further information on A Brown Company’s human rights abuses can be viewed through these links:
- Detailed overview of A Brown’s Filipino operations and associated abuses: http://www.panap.net/sites/default/files/OPOL_Oil_Palm_Primer.pdf [1.2MB pdf]
- Violence against communities: http://www.panap.net/en/fs/post/food-sovereignty-resistance-land-grabbing/1069
- Use of toxic chemicals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GWejbzOkOxA
- Executing environment defenders: https://www.fidh.org/International-Federation-for-Human-Rights/asia/philippines/The-Philippines-assassination-of-12287
Not for the first time President Momis has invited a fox into the hen house. Except this time it is not ‘the devil we know’, as he likes to put it, but a brand new ‘devil’.
|Bougainville POGE||POGE Dev Corp Management||Other|
|John Momis||Director/ Shareholder||No||ABG President|
|Michael Oni||Director/ Shareholder||No||ABG Minister for Natural Resources|
|Albert Punghau||Director/ Shareholder||No||ABG Finance Minister|
|Director/Shareholder||Chairman||Chairman of A Brown Company, Inc., Palm Thermal Consolidated Holdings Corporation, Palm Concepcion Power Corporation and A Brown Energy & Resources Dev’t. Inc., President and CEO of Apex Mining Inc. and Director of ISM Communications Corporation, Forum Energy Plc and Monte Oro Resources and Energy, Inc.|
|Roel Castro||Director/ Shareholder||Executive Vice President||Vice President of Business Development at A Brown Company, Inc. since May 2010. Mr. Castro serves as Vice President of Business Development and Administration at Atok-Big Wedge Co. Inc. He serves as the Chief Executive Officer and President at Palm Concepcion Power Corporation.|
|Luis David||Director/ Shareholder||Senior Vice President||Mr. David serves as Consultant of A. Brown Co, Inc|
|Rufino Tiango||Director/S hareholder||Board Director||Chairman of the Board of Marala Vitas Central Terminal & Shipyards Corp.; President of Trufsons Holdings Corporation; President of Ruvict Holdings Corporation; Director of F & J Prince Holdings Corporation; Director of Magellan Capital Holdings Corporation; President of Vructi Holdings Corporation; and Chairman & CEO of R.A.V. Fishing Corporation.|
|Dominador Tupaz||Director/Shareholder||President||Economic Adviser, Autonomous Bougainville Government. President of Seagate Global Commodities Services.|
|William Lawton||Director/Shareholder||No||Chairman and CEO of hedge fund and private equity firm Global Seagate. Seagate also acts as an economic adviser to the Bougainville Government.|
Table 2: Director-shareholders at Bougainville POGE Development Ltd