August 23, 2009 in international
By MARY ANN BAYANG
GENEVA, Switzerland — An official of the Philippine Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva flared up and walked out in the middle of discussions with representatives of indigenous peoples, organizations and support groups here on Thursday, August 13.
Mr. Denis Lipatan of the Permanent Mission shouted and pointed his trembling fingers at the IP representatives and support groups from the Philippines, “Do you even know what FPIC is (Free, Prior and Informed Consent)? Do you even know what ancestral domain is?” and left the meeting room.
Lipatan also accused the group of complicating a very simple problem.
Lipatan’s outburst stemmed from a discussion on issues raised by indigenous peoples living in Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya. He insisted that a FPIC is not required for mining companies who would want to mine in Didipio because the affected residents are migrants and they have individual tax declarations. He argues that the mining companies only need to ask for the consent of individual landowners.
Cathal Doyle of the Irish Human Rights Center explained that the new guidelines of National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) states that FPIC is required whenever indigenous peoples are directly or indirectly affected by any development project. Lipatan, however, cut Doyle with his outburst.
Doyle has been in the Philippines for his doctorate on the FPIC. In the past year he has conducted interviews and his research in more than 20 indigenous communities. He has also met several times with officials of the NCIP and with support groups and non-government organization (NGO) in the Philippines.
Peter Duyapat, an indigenous peoples elder from Didipio who was present during the meeting, compared the meeting to the numerous confrontations with NCIP officials in the Philippines which he perceived as antagonistic to indigenous peoples’ rights.
He patiently relayed the situation of their community to Ambassador Erlinda Basilio and the members of the Permanent Mission only to be told that they had no right to FPIC.
The elders and support groups present were doubly disappointed when Ambassador Basilio repeatedly said that “all of us (Filipinos) are indigenous peoples”.
“The Ambassador mirrors an alarming inadequacy of awareness of even high government officials on the concept of indigenous peoples.” the elders noted.
The IP representatives and support groups made their courtesy call that same day to the Philippine Ambassador and the Philippine Permanent Mission to the United Nations.
Robie Halip of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) who with her group was at the courtesy call said they were confronted for the issues raised by the Didipio representatives.
She said that the discussion with the members of the Philippine Permanent Mission on the issues being raised by the indigenous peoples proved to be futile because the two groups were coming from two different views and that the members of the Permanent Mission seem to be detached from what is really happening on the ground.
FPIC is free, prior and informed consent is exercised by indigenous peoples and communities before any projects or polices directly or indirectly affecting them, be launched in their territories.
The group is composed of one elder from Didipio,Nueva Vizcaya (Peter Duyapat), two from Zamboanga del Norte (Timuay Jose Anoy and Timuay Noval Lambo), the Indigenous Peoples Rights Monitor (IPRM), Indigenous Peoples Links (PIPLINKS), Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan / Friends of the Earth Philippines (LRC-KsK/FoE Phils.)
The group consisting of indigenous peoples’ representatives, NGOs and support groups, are in Geneva to present a Shadow Report which they submitted to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). The Philippines ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) and is required to submit a periodic report every four years, to the CERD. However, it only submitted a report once in 1997 until the CERD called its attention on its failure to submit thus on June 30, 2008, the Philippines submitted its country report.
If the State Report does not reflect actual situations, civil society can also submit their own report which they usually call the Shadow Report, to counter allegations of the government in their State Report. In June 2009, a Shadow Report focusing on the rights of indigenous peoples was submitted to the ICERD.
In the August 2009 CERD sessions, the Philippines will be under review. Civil society will have one hour on August 18, 2009 to present their report and recommendations to the committee. # nordis.net