September 27, 2009 in Uncategorized
LONDON, UK — Indigenous Peoples Links (PIPLinks), a UK-based support group on indigenous rights, presented a letter to President Arroyo on her visit to the United Kingdom, raising issues around the recent concluding observations of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).
The CERD, which is made up of experts from 18 countries, issued its critical recommendations to the Philippines Government following its review of the Government’s overdue report in Geneva in August 2009. The CERD welcomed various positive developments in the legal framework, such as the 1997 Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), but it raised a number of critical concerns and recommendations in relation to respect for Indigenous Peoples’ rights in practice.
The extensive set of recommendations regarding the Government’s implementation of Indigenous Peoples’ rights included urging the Government to acknowledge that racial discrimination exists in the Philippines, to ensure that Indigenous Peoples are protected in situations of armed conflict and that independent and impartial investigations are conducted into all allegations of human rights violations.
Crucially, it recommended that the Government fully implement the IPRA, ensuring that economic activities, especially mining, carried out on indigenous territories do not adversely affect the protection of Indigenous Peoples’ rights under the Act. With regard to this, it made specific recommendations on the activities of TVI Pacific, who are operating in the ancestral domain of the Subanon at Mount Canatuan. This case has been the subject of an ongoing complaint to the CERD for the last two years. The CERD urged the Government “to consult with all concerned parties in order to address the issues over Mt. Canatuan in a manner that respects customary laws and practices of the Subanon people”.
The CERD was concerned over the implementation of IPRA and its provision to ensure Indigenous Peoples are given the right to Free Prior Informed Consent before any mining or other development can take place on their lands. They called for an independent review of the IPRA to verify that the current structures and guidelines/procedures established to conduct FPIC are in accordance with the spirit and letter of the IPRA. They also called for an independent review, in consultation with Indigenous Peoples, of IPRA and all aspects of the legislative framework in relation to indigenous property. The CERD asked the Government to report back within one year.
PIPLinks was part of a consortium of groups concerned with indigenous rights that submitted a ‘shadow report’, and video, to counter Government claims that there was no racial discrimination in the Philippines. As many of the concerns expressed by Indigenous Peoples in the ‘shadow report’ were over how the Government, through the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, was failing and mis-representing them, there is a real concern as to how the voice of Indigenous Peoples will be heard more directly with regard to these life and death issues.
We await a response from the Government, but in the meantime are concerned that the President prioritized meeting mining companies in London, when their activities are the source of so many of the ongoing concerns raised by Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines.
“The government must tell the truth. We have been waiting for so long. The government’s report that there are no indigenous peoples’ discrimination is purely a lie as fabricated by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), through its incompetent local officials.
They should be held accountable.” – Timuay Lambo, Chief Elder of the Subanon Council of Seven Rivers in the Zamboanga Peninsula.# nordis.net