By ADELA WAYAS / TFIP*
First of two parts
Through the deliberations during the 2nd National Conference on Indigenous Knowledge, indigenous peoples’ representatives from all over the country identified themselves as communities, raised their common issues and collectively agreed on positions they have decided to act on and to present to the public and to government.
The conference recognized that Indigenous Peoples (IP) are intimately connected to nature as they are the caretakers of the ecosystem. They get from the environment only what is needed and nurture the land and other resources for life.
The customary laws of the IP are sacred. These guide them in the management of the environment – land, rivers, food and resources- as well as in their political system, and their lives as a whole.
But these characteristics of the IP are being taken away from them by intruders to the land. Their culture is deteriorating and their ancestral land is converted by development aggression.
They also believe that through the struggles of indigenous peoples for the recognition of their land rights and human rights around the world, the United Nations adopted a declaration in 2007 recognizing the rights of IP. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) is an international instrument for all IP to use in their struggles.
Patterned after the draft provisions of the UNDRIP, the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of the Philippines or IPRA recognizes the rights of the Indigenous Peoples and is mandated to protect them from the intrusion of different development projects, policies and programs into their communities which may affect their life, land and culture.
The IPRA which was enacted in 1997, includes a provision on Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) that has to be sought from every indigenous cultural community before any project, program or a policy is to be implemented in their territories. The Chapter II Section 3:g of IPRA states that FPIC.
“…shall mean the consensus of all members of the ICCs/IPs to be determined in accordance with their respective customary laws and practices, free from any external manipulation, interference and coercion, and obtained after fully disclosing the intent and scope of the activity, in a language and process understandable to the community.”
However, in this conference various IP groups shared different adverse experiences with the FPIC processes applied in their communities that had extreme repercussions on their life and land.
The 2nd National Conference on Indigenous Knowledge was held on February 22-23, 2012 in Midsayap, North Cotabato. It was organized by the Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples Rights (TFIP), Tebtebba Foundation Inc. and the Southern Christian College.
The theme of the conference was “Asserting Customary Resource Use, Reclaiming Free, Prior, and Informed Consent, and Transmitting Indigenous Knowledge”.
During the conference, various case studies in different IP communities were presented revealing serious flaws in the FPIC processes which we shall site here in brief:
CASE 1. In Sagada and Bontoc Mt. Province, IP communities did not undergo a genuine FPIC process. In her report, Gina Dizon of the Montanosa Research and Development Center reported that SMART and GLOBE Telecommunication companies did not comply with the guidelines of a FPIC.
The indigenous folks who consented to the construction of a SMART tower in Balugan, Sagada reported they were ‘bribed’ by the company for P15,000. They were also deceived that the project was a landline facility and were not informed of the correct land rent for the telecommunications tower.
Now, additional panels are attached to the tower without the information and consent of the people. Though not yet studied, the curling leaves of tomato plants and banana plants around the tower is believed to be caused by the radiation of the tower.
She further discussed that the Globe Telecom tower in Calvary Hills, Sagada operates as well without the consent of the community. The people in Poblacion, Dagdag, Demang and Ambasing were not consulted regarding the tower project. In 2007, the barangay captain had issued a barangay clearance to the company which they now hold as their permit.
The members of the barangay council did not even endorse the permit. Globe Telecom did not ask for the consent of the community.
They however, continue dealing with the authorities of the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin which “owns” the lot where the tower is constructed. The people filed a petition for the mayor to act on Globe not securing the necessary business permits, Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC) and FPIC. Inspite of the petition Globe still continues its operation on a provisional permit given by the local government,
In 2006, the people were alarmed when Globe had constructed a tower in their “a-apuyan”, a sacred site for the IP in Dantay, Bontoc.
The project did not undergo the process of securing consent from the people so they recalled the clearance, which was issued by a barangay captain in 2004. They filed petitions at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and brought the issue to the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP). It was only in 2008 when Globe dismantled their tower.. # nordis.net
* Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights or TFIP is a non-governmental organization advancing the cause of Indigenous Peoples rights.