By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — The free prior and informed consent (FPIC) process is but one of the many fora for indigenous peoples to assert their right to land and to self-determination.
This was articulated by Joji Carino of the Forest People Program (FPP) and Santos Mero of the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) who spoke during the national workshop on FPIC staged by the Task Force on Indigenous People (TFIP) from August 7 to 8 at the University of the Philippines Baguio.
“IPs need to defend their rights in a multitude of fora and at multiple levels simultaneously if they are to be successful,” Carino said.
She said that the purpose of the FPIC is to ensure that the rights of IPs are respected and protected. She added that it does not end with the issuance of a certificate precondition.
She said that the agreement forged during the FPIC process should outline the responsibilities and obligations of the corporation but also the sanctions should they fail to follow the agreement. She added there should be a monitoring and grievance mechanism.
Carino said that the IPs should be the one to define the FPIC process that will suit their customary laws. She added that “the NCIP prescribing rules is wrong and is already a violation of the right to self-determination”.
She pointed out that IPs are not homogenous and processes vary among different groups. She added that even the projects that enter IP communities vary that there is no one-size-fits-all process. “This is a challenge for NCIP, to work within the framework of the different IPs instead of imposing one process for all,” she said.
Carino said that an FPIC process will succeed when the IPs rights to their land and to self-determination are recognized and when they control the pace and process of the negotiation.
Mero shared that IPs in the Cordillera like other IPs in the country have been victims of manipulated and railroaded FPIC process. “But despite the fraudulent issuance of certificate preconditions, harassment, persecution and militarization the IPs have prevailed through their unity and concerted action,” he said.
Mero cited as examples the mining companies who were given permits even without an FPIC process. He shared how the people of Manakyan in Benguet province who prevailed over the Far South East project of the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corporation when the company tried to force the conversion of its Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) to a Financial Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA).
Also in Benguet, the people of Bakun town who succeeded in blocking the Royalco Mining Company from pushing through with its exploration activities even when the company was able to secure a permit. He also shared how the Binongan people of Baay-Licuan, Abra failed the attempt of Olympus Mining to mine in their territory despite the joint efforts of the NCIP and local officials to railroad the FPIC process among others.
Mero said there are still many challenges for many Cordillera IP villages because over 60% of the total land area of the region is covered with mining applications. He added that mining applications are even overlapped with energy project applications such as hydropower and geothermal.
Mero said experience taught Cordillera IPs that they can only protect their rights over their land and to self-determination if they are united.
“Let us not be discouraged because the fight does not end when the companies are able to secure a certificate of precondition, there are still many ways to defend our land,” Mero said.
Mero shared that Cordillera IPs have filed petitions; lobbied with local, national and international institutions; staged protest actions in their struggle to defend their land and assert their rights over their resources. # nordis.net