By ALDWIN QUITASOL
MANKAYAN, Benguet — “Ang pakikibaka ng mga katutubong Igorot ng Mankayan laban sa drilling operation ng Lepanto ay nagpapatunay lamang kung paano ipagtanggol ng mga katutubong Pilipino ang kanilang mga lupa laban sa mga mapanirang proyekto hindi lamang para sa kanilang mga sarili kundi pati na rin sa mga susunod na mga henerasyon.”
The struggle of the Igorots of Mankayan against the drilling operation of Lepanto only shows how the Filipino Indigenous Peoples (IP) protect their land from destructive projects not only for themselves but for the next generations) said Arnel de los Santos, Secretary General of the Bigkis at Lakas ng mga Katutubo sa Timog Katagalugan (Balatik).
De los Santos is one of the leaders of an alliance of different organizations of IP tribes and groups of Luzon who visited the barricade of Mankayan residents at Sitio Tabio, Madaymen in this mining municipality. The IP organizations are also members of the Kalipunan ng mga katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Kamp).
As part of Kamp’s consolidation of the unity of IPs of the Philippines against development aggression and in the defense of their ancestral lands and domains, the alliance initiated an IP inter-exchange program. The IP leaders who participated in the program also came from the protest in Manila during the 3rd State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Benigno Aquino III.
The IP leaders shared their experiences in the struggle with their fellow IPs in Mankayan at the barricade. Prior to that, Marlou Pablo presented the chronology of their opposition to the drilling site of Gold Fields Ltd and Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMC). He also narrated how they defied the court orders against upholding their rights over their ancestral land and their livelihood.
According to Robert Jacinto, coordinator of the Alliance of Multi Sectoral Groups Against Mining (Almusegam) and an Ifugao based in Dupax of Nueva Viscaya Province, he salutes the Save the Mankayan Movement (SMM) and the residents who are against the mining expansion in Lepanto. He said he will share his experience in visiting the barricade area and the stories he heard on the struggle of the IPs of Mankayan to his colleagues when he will go back to their place. This he said will serve as an inspiration for them to continue their fight against the intrusion of mining companies in their community.
Marlyn Olivar, a member of the Bagong Tinig ng mga Katutubo (Bagtik) from the IP group of Cuyunin of Palawan said that the barricaders should not be afraid as they are only fighting for what is right. “Walang mas malakas na armas kundi pagkakaisa,” (There is no stronger weapon than unity) she added. She also shared how their community stopped the entry of mining into their lands and how they got the support of their officials.
Aeta Rudy de la Cruz of Pampanga said that the IPs and the rest of the Filipinos should treat the land as their mother where they get the nourishment they need. He explained that the land provides the people food and livelihood. He said the people should not let the land vanish. “Sa amin, pag napapadaan ako sa ilog at nakikita ko ang isang malaking bato ay naaalala ko ang aking lolo. Inisip ko na pag ito ay mawawala ay parang mabubura din ang alaala ko sa aking lolo. At pag nawala ang isang alaala ay hindi na natin kayang ibalik,” (In our place, whenever I go to the river, I look at a big rock and I remember my grand father. I think that when the rock will be gone then my memories of my grand father will be erased. And if memories will disappear, we can not afford to bring those back) said de la Cruz.
In a statement of solidarity to the Igorots of Mankayan, the IP leaders expressed their admiration of the determination of the barricaders. Kamp national spokesperson Piya Malayo said they condemn the acts of the Philippine National Police and elements of the 50th Infantry Brigade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in serving as escorts to the employees of LCMC to demolish the barricade to allow the drilling operations to continue. # nordis.net