By ALMA B. SINUMLAG
BAGUIO CITY — During the soft launching of the book that compiled the speeches of former congressman William “Billy” Claver, an Indigenous Peoples (IP) rights defender who first brought the issue of ancestral domain in the halls of congress, his criticism of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) law and the role of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) was read.
In the absence of Billy Claver, one of his grandsons, Rev. Father Andrew Claver read the short but stinging rebuke of Billy Claver . “IPRA and the NCIP appear not to be protecting the Indigenous Peoples rights of which they are called to do so. Instead, they are facilitators for mining, logging and timber permits and other big companies entering in IP areas,” Billy’s statement read.
Fr. Claver in an interview expressed his agreement with the observation of Billy Claver. He explained that with the experience of the Cordillera region with regards to mining applications, it is already difficult to believe that IPRA and NCIP are there to uphold the rights of IPs. He further explained that the true essence of an ancestral domain is deteriorating with the entry of large scale mine firms and other destructive projects that are facilitated by the NCIP and other government agencies. This he said is the reason why his grandfather, Billy Claver is very firm with his statement.
Fr. Claver further said that large scale mining should be stopped in the region. “The implications of Lepanto and other mining companies are enough. The sufferings of IPs due to this kind of mining should be stopped,” he iterated. This according to him is supposedly the role of the IPRA law – to ensure that the IP rights are protected. However, the sad reality on the ground is the exact opposite, he said.
Moreover, Fr. Claver reacted vehemently regarding the so-called neutral stand of NCIP with regards the process of obtaining free prior and informed consent (FPIC) of IPs . “Mali! They should be the one asserting the rights of the indigenous peoples because that’s the purpose of that office,” he stressed. He added that they should not be simply neutral. “We need to have a stand specially for the IPs,” he reiterated. # nordis.net