By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — An Ibaloi and indigenous people’s leader here said that the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) failed to protect the rights of indigenous peoples over their ancestral land and right to self-determination.
Santos Mero, deputy secretary general of the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA), said that in the twenty years of the IPRA, the IP’s right to self-determination and to their ancestral lands continued to be violated.
“Despite IPRA, large mining and energy companies succeeded in taking over indigenous people’s lands amid protests,” Mero said.
Mero said that from the very beginning, the CPA has called for the rejection of IPRA pointing out that the law is “a masterpiece of deception”.
He said that while the law seems to be progressive in form and was even hailed internationally as a landmark legislation that would pave the way for constitutional provisions that would recognize ancestral lands, it was clear at the onset that IPRA would never be meaningful because recognizing indigenous peoples’ rights to land was inconsistent with the interest of the ruling classes.
It can be recalled that IPRA was signed into law in October 1997. The law created the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).
“The expereinces of communities in the past 20 years of IPRA implementation proves that CPA’s position was correct,” Mero said.
Mero enumerated the non-recognition of prior property rights of the Kankanaey in Mankayan, Benguet in favor of the Itogon Suyoc Mines Inc.’s Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) application in 1999;
Manipulation of the FPIC process in Bakun, Benguet in favor of the mining application of Royalco in 2009, manipulation of FPIC process in Mankayan, Benguet on the expansion of Lepanto and its application to convert its MPSA application into a Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) in 2013.
He also mentioned the manipulation of FPIC processes for the entry of big energy projects such as Chevron in Guinaang, Kalinga and Hedcor in Sabangan, and Philcarbon in Sagada, Mountain Province Cause of boundary disputes and tribal conflicts due to CADCs and CADTs
Mero further said that the NCIP issued certifications of pre conditions to several mining corporations from 1998 to 2000 without the FPIC of affected communities which resulted in the approval of nine MPSAs, non-recognition of the rejection or opposition of indigenous communities to a project.
He said these include the Binongan indigenous peoples rejection of Olympus Pacifc Minerals application in 2009 and Guinaang indigenous peoples rejection of Makilala Mining in 2013 among others.
Mero also said that the NCIP issued questionable CALTs and CADTs to bogus claimants as in the case of Baguio City. “The law is just an instrument, our experience showed that the law was used against us,” he said.
Mero challenged all IPs, to continue the struggle for the genuine recognition of their right to self-determination and ancestral land.
“Experience taught us that we can only rely on our unity and collective actions for the genuine recognition of our inherent and fundamental rights,” Mero said. # nordis.net