By ADELA WAYAS / TFIP*
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CASE 2. These cases of violation of the rights of the IP in the Cordilleras are similar to other cases in different IP communities all over the country.
In Nueva Vizcaya, violations are not only made on securing permits, but have reached the extent of using guns bringing fear to the community.
The upland barangays of Dupax del Norte, Nueva Vizcaya are inhabited by the Bugkalot and displaced IP migrants from Benguet. The indigenous migrants were displaced from their homelands in Benguet because of the dams and other large developmental projects of the government in the early 1950s and 60s. Their experience of losing their lands has been their reason why they are against the mineral exploration in Dupax. On the other hand, most of the Bugkalot who were the original settlers in Dupax want the exploration project to continue in exchange of road development and employment offered by the company.
In Yabbi, one of the barangays of Dupax, the people were divided in their stand on the mineral exploration project. The NCIP tolerated the flagrant act of the company attaching the attendance sheet of one of their consensus building meetings to the Memorandum of Agreement to signify their approval to the project. The NCIP and the company excluded the indigenous migrants from participating in FPIC processes including decision making.
More than that, the Buena Suerte mining company employed Bugkalots as company guards to block the community from whoever will support the indigenous migrants’ resistance to mining. The Bugkalot threatened the indigenous migrants that they would get back their lands if they will not agree to the project.
CASE 3. The Iraya indigenous communities in Abra de Ilog, Mindoro Occidental and the Palaw-an indigenous communities in Sofronio Española, Southern Palawan are threatened by mining and large oil palm plantations.
The Agusan Petroleum Mining Corporation did not only violate the customary laws of the IP but manipulated as well the Iraya leaders whom they brought to Batangas for an agreement. The leaders could not do anything when the representatives of the company told them to sign the agreement so that they could return home.
The agreement was upheld by the NCIP as valid. APMC was then able to secure a permit to explore the 63% of the total land area of Abra de Ilog, encompassing 8 barangays.
The Palaw-an tribe’s experience in Sofronio Española, FPIC violations of customary laws, misrepresentation and non-participation in the decision making. The research of the UCCP- Integrated Development Program for Indigenous Peoples Southern Tagalog (UUCP-IDPIP-ST) revealed that thousands of hectares of the Palaw-an’s ancestral lands were converted to oil palm plantations for local biofuel programs.
The indigenous settlements, kaingin sites, sacred groves, burial sites and watersheds were destroyed and are now gone because of such projects. Ana Bibal of UCCP-IDPIP-ST said that this brings great fear as the Iraya believe that when the ecosystems of their forebears are destroyed, the people will “dissolve like salt”.
CASE 4. The entry of oil palm plantation in Opol, Misamis Oriental has been affecting the sources of food and the customary laws of the Higaonon in their ancestral domain .
A Brown Company Inc (BRN) is one of the active planters of oil palm in the country. When they entered the different IP communities of Misamis Oriental, they made it clear that those who will not consent to the oil palm project will not be forced. With the approval of the Kahugpongan sa Mag-uuma sa Barangay Tingalan (Tingalan Farmer’s Association), the subsidiaries of BRN – Nakeen Corporation (NC) and ABERDI started the oil palm operations.
Meanwhile, the Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization received reports from members of Pangalasag organization that they are being harassed and intimidated by NC personnel. John Ryan Mendoza of Kalumbay said that “officers of Pangalasag have been put under surveillance and harassed through text messages and maltreated by the company guards.” Pangalasag is a people’s organization composed of tribal leaders and indigenous villagers.
Though their lands are covered by an ancestral domain claim, the company did not secure the FPIC from the IP in Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon. The oil palm operations in these areas caused displacement of families, loss of livelihood and food insecurity. The company has no respect for the existing sacred culture and tradition of the Higaonons in their ancestral domain.
These case studies were conducted in different IP communities in the country by the Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples Rights (TFIP). They show that mining corporations, oil palm companies and the government are not serious in implementing IP laws including the provisions on the IP rights to free prior informed consent.
The case studies also show that IPs have taken up various forms of collective resistance to protect their land and culture. The IPRA is a legal mechanism that the IP could use to assert and protect their right to land, culture, life and self-determination. But the power of the law has been used against the interests of many of the IP all over the country.
The law is not being followed and implemented the way it should be. Local and foreign companies and the government are the prime violators of the IPRA. It has become a practice to manipulate the FPIC process in their favor and against IP decisions and interests.
The sacred culture of the IP communities has been disrespected and taken for granted. The ancestral lands are either grabbed or developed for the private investment interests of outsiders, causing the displacement of IP, the loss of their livelihood, food scarcity and deterioration of their culture.
Many IP have been fighting not only for land but for the next generations. Many of them are physically threatened, harassed, disappeared or killed.
Worse, the body that was created and given the mandate to serve and assist IP cannot do its work. The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples cannot stand for the people. Their commitment is swayed in favor of the other party that is inducing and dividing the indigenous community. Most of the government line agencies are doing the same.
This is the sad reality. This is the way of the State to gain more profit and power – the reason why they make themselves blind and deaf to the rightful claims of the IP. But at the end of this, through collective struggle and self-determination, the IP not only in the country but all over the world will reclaim their rights to land, culture, humane life and self-determination.
The conference petitioned that there must be respect and recognition for the IP rights to a genuine and transparent FPIC. # nordis.net
* Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights or TFIP is a non-governmental organization advancing the cause of Indigenous Peoples rights.