By ALMA SINUMLAG
During the 1st national conference on biodiversity, gender and indigenous knowledge held in Benguet State University (BSU) on October 6-8, two Lumad leaders in Mindanao shared their experiences in their defense of their land, life and resources.
Datu Tinoy-an, a Manobo leader from Surigao del Sur said they continue with militance to protect their mountains from illegal loggers and other activities that destroy the biodiversity of their home forest.
Their forest he said was the widest area of their homeland and it is their main source of livelihood . “Sabi namin sa gobyerno, huwag ninyong pakialaman ang gubat. Ipaubaya niyo sa amin para alagaan namin. Hindi lang ito para sa kapakanan naming mga Manobo na nakatira sa bundok kundi para na rin sa kinabukasan ng ating bansa,” (We told the government not to disturb the forest. Leave it to us to take care of. This shall not only be for our sake, the Manobo living in the mountains but also for the future of our country). the Datu narrated.
He however, lamented that not everybody respects the rights of Indigenous Peoples (IPs) over their ancestral domain.
Tinoy-an said they had tried their best to protect their forest with the help of several non government organizations and priests, however, it was eventually destroyed.
He attributed their forest’ destruction to logging operations by big companies allowed by government agencies like the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). “Ang DENR mismo ang may kasalanan kung bakit nasira ang aming gubat,” he retorted. (It is DENR’s fault that our forest is destroyed.)
Tinoy-an said that with the help of their priest, they fought for the protection of their ancestral domain. Their priest was sent to jail for accussing the DENR of facilitating the destruction of the forest. He was eventually freed as witnesses and photographs that were presented to the court by their community was proof enough their priest was right and all charges were dropped.
Now, Tinoy-an said they remain stewards of their land. They are trying their best to restore their forest’ biodiversity. However, he lamented that there is now a threat of declaring their forest as a critical habitat. This according to him is facilitated by Department of Tourism (DOT) and their local government unit (LGU).
Declaring their forest area as a critical habitat prevents, by law, them from living in the area covered by such declaration, and they are the indigenous peoples’ community in the area.
With this, he called on the concerned agencies to consider the People who live in the area before even planning to declare it a critical habitat. “Isipin niyo ang mga taong nakatira sa sinasabi niyong critical habitat. Ano ang kanilang ikabubuhay? Respetuhin niyo ang bawat isang taong nakatira sa ancestral domain,” (Think of the people living in what you say is a critical habitat. What will their source of livelihood be? Respect everyone who lives within the ancestral domain.) he said.
On the other hand, Datu Ed Panda, an Ubo Manobo leader in Mount Apo, Kidapawan, North Central Mindanao shared their strategies in their defense of their ancestral land from what he called as government facilitated destructive projects. According to him, the first peoples action of the Ubo Manobo began when the government started to intervene in the way the they utilized their land’s natural resources. The Bureau of Forestry (now DENR) allowed the entry of corporate mining, logging, banana plantation, and the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC). These projects according to him all came with militarization.
Panda said, they resisted against these projects that is why there were lives sacrificed, there were people jailed, and people who left the community because of militarization and they could not stand the government red labelling and accusations.
“Hindi nila nakayanan ang mga bintang sa amin na kami ay mga subersibo, kami ay rebolusyonaryo, dahil kami ay nagtitipon tipon at nagpupulong. Ginagawa namin ang mga ito dahil malaki ang problema namin,” (They did not stand the accusations that we were subversives, that we were revolutionaries just because we got together and had meetings. We did these because we had a big problem) he said.
Panda added that in order to win, they divided themselves into several small groups. They designated which group will face the mining company, the logging company, the PNOC, the DENR and others. He said they even engaged in government politics. “Hindi kami sanay sa politics subalit pinasok pa rin namin”.
Moreover the Datu said in their fight, they learned diplomacy work in the defense of their ancestral land like legislating resolutions, petitions and ordinances. We came to negotiate with the DENR itself, to the mayor, governor and others.
However, he said the one who had helped them a lot in their struggle, is the intervention of Manama (God) and told the audience of this manifestation.
“Naputol iyong isang malaking puno sa aming gubat kung saan nangingitlog ang monkey-eating eagle at dahil sa sinisira ang biodiversity, pinatigil iyong logging company,” (One large tree in their forest where the monkey eating eagle laid its eggs was cut-down because of this wanton destruction of the biodiversity in our forest the logging company was stopped) They believe it was Manama’s intervention that caused the cutting down of the tree.
Panda added that they did not stop there, they talked to several politicians to help stop a mining company. They threatened these politicians that if they allow the mining company to continue its operations, all the Ubo Manobo who are 30% of the population will not support them.
As a result he said, they stopped the mining operation. The politician who helped them won as their governor. As of the moment, they (the Ubo manobo) are recognized in their place. They are given priority by the government. They are offered jobs and social services. This according to him is the fruit of their success in their first peoples struggle. He continued that despite their situation now, they shall continue to be vigilant against all destructive projects entering their ancestral domain. # nordis.net