LA TRINIDAD, Benguet (Nov. 22) — Asian student leaders vowed to take on the fight of indigenous peoples of the Cordillera for the recognition of their human rights in a press conference Thursday that capped a week-long conference, here.
This was revealed by Adrian Perera, after the group’s visit to a mining community in Itogon, Benguet and an urban poor community in Baguio City.
In a statement, students from Cambodia, Malaysia Thailand, Myanmar and the Philippines under the banner of the International Movement of Catholic Students (IMCS)-Asia Pacific pledged to conduct various activities that include photo exhibits, community immersions, publications, dialogs and forums among others to promote and educate more youth about the plight of indigenous peoples.
Perera, one of the organizers of the activity said after learning of the plight of the people of Ampucao and the impending entry of Anvil Mines, the group decided to be part of the campaign to stop the entry of mines in the community.
Perera said the Ampucao people’s plight should not be treated as just a local problem. He added mining firms are part of international corporations and the people of Ampucao could not win the fight on their own.
“We could initiate an international campaign to support the Ampucao people’s fight for their land through our network,” he said.
Bipul Gonsalves, a delegate from Bangladesh, said they would also include the Baguio urban poor problems on land, jobs and poverty in their campaigns. He added the deprivation of the urban poor from education, land and jobs drives them deeper into poverty.
Gonsalves further said the presence of national laws and international declarations to protect indigenous peoples are not enough. He stressed that these laws and declarations should be implemented properly and effectively.
Gonsalves added the ICMS have been conducting education campaigns in the Asia Pacific region on gender, human rights and effects of globalization among others.
“We will educate the masses to know about the issues faced by the indigenous peoples so that they will be aware and hence respect the dignity, identity and needs of the indigenous peoples,” an ICMS statement read.
Seventeen students from the participating countries are in the South East Asian Program (SEAP) held from November 15 to 22 at the Benguet State University (BSU). The said activity was organized by the ICMS and the Center of Cordillera Peoples Concern (CCPC).
The ICMS is a federation of Catholic students groups all over the world with 18 national movements and over 120,000 members. # Kim Quitasol for NORDIS