By ADELA MAYBELLE DEYAEN WAYAS / TFIP
QUEZON CITY — This year’s celebration of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (IPs), 80 indigenous participants from different indigenous communities in the country gathered in a National Forum on Indigenous Peoples and the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (WCIP 2014) held at SEAMEO-Innotech, Diliman in Quezon City to discuss the heightening situations of IPs in the Philippines, relevant meetings and formations at the international level, and to update the IP Agenda that was forged and submitted three years ago to the President Benigno Aquino III.
According to Windel Bolinget, chairperson of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), since Aquino came to power in 2010, never had he heard of the plight of IPs, nor did he respect their rights to their own lands, nor their right to self-determination, and he snubbed the first IP Agenda that was submitted to him.
“The updated IP Agenda will speak of the old and current concerns and issues of IPs that the government must give attention to and address,” he said.
He stressed that the IP Agenda expresses IP rights to their lands and territories, genuine free, prior and informed consent, basic social services and rights as individuals.
The lands, territories and resources of IPs have been greatly affected by development aggression. In the 2012 Approved Mining Permits of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), 60% of the 1,027,348.6052 hectares of the country’s land open for mining are in ancestral domains of indigenous communities. Concurrent with these mining operations are various ventures of agrofuel plantations that cover 1,051,950 hectares in different parts of the country. Large dams, logging and new forms of land grabbing e.g. using priority and usufruct rights to privatize and commercialize indigenous lands, implementation of renewable energy projects, without genuine free, prior and informed consent are evident in indigenous communities.
Jill Cariño, convenor of Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights (TFIP), explained that development aggression destroy the holistic connection of IPs to land and slowly affect their traditional and sustainable living practices, culture and environment. “We call to stop any development aggression in our lands and territories as it kills every aspect of our life given by our ancestors that is treasured for the next generations. Our customary laws and governance on our lands and resource use and our inherent right to free, prior and informed consent must be recognized and respect by the government, institutions and companies,” Cariño added.
While the Aquino administration remained silent on these issues, Piya Macliing Malayao, spokesperson of Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP) said that the administration is very blatant at opening doors for more foreign investments that cater to large and destructive projects in the country that also brought violations to IP rights and customary laws .
KAMP believes that the economic policies of mining liberalization , other “developmental” projects and its brutal counter-insurgency scheme OplanBayanihan has grossly violated IP rights and has killed IPs.
“Since Aquino came in power in 2010, human rights violations are heightening in the country and most cases are found in indigenous communities who are protecting their lands and territories and opposing development aggression,” Malayao said.
In the monitoring done by KAMP, 35 IPs were already slain under the Aquino regime including minors, 260 trumped up charges were made against IPs and recorded 14 incidents of forced evacuations affecting more than 4,000 IPs in Mindanao.
Aside from these violations, Beverly Longid, president of Katribu Partylist, said political vilification is also growing and creating fear among IPs in indigenous communities. She said the military are used by companies to repress people’s dissent. Aside from harassments and killings, military encampments are found in indigenous institutions such as schools, barangay halls, health centers, indigenous meeting places and sacred sites. These created fear and terror among IP communities especially the children. She said many indigenous institutions are also labelled as institutions established by the New Peoples Army (NPA).
“These are clear attacks on IP rights. The military should not push the IPs into the GPH-NDFP clash. Red tagging in the schools established by the IPs themselves and with support from the church and non-government organizations should be stopped. Because of the lack of government services, these institutions were established,” Longid emphasized.
On the other hand, the dole out solutions of the government to alleviate poverty such as Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) does not change the living condition of the IPs. In fact, she said government policies on health, disaster preparedness and other education programmes also become a problem for IPs. “Because of poverty and limited access to basic social services, IPs still rely on their traditional knowledge and practices of healing, self-defense and other survival mechanisms,” she added.
Calls and Challenges
The updated IP Agenda was divided into 4 themes: on IP lands, territories, resources and development aggression; on human rights, militarization and peace; NCIP, conflicting laws and FPIC; and on social services, Post-2015 Development goals, Climate Change adaptation and Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Preparedness and Response Measures.
IPs call upon the Philippine Government, the multilateral bodies in the Philippines including UN bodies, agencies and funds; the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, the European Union and among others to recognize and respect IP rights to their lands and right to self-determination. IPs also called on the Philippine Government and the said multilateral bodies to honour and respect their commitments to different local and international treaties and agreements through policies and mechanisms that protect and promote IP rights.
The indigenous assembly at the National Forum also expressed their full support to the Alta Outcome Document agreed upon by 700 indigenous representatives from all over the world in Alta, Norway last June 10-12, 2013. # nordis.net