By NATHANIEL FABIAN / PUNGANAY YOUTH CAGAYAN VALLEY
BAGUIO CITY — Indigenous youth leaders across the country called on President Rodrigo Duterte to lift Martial Law in Mindanao and to stop development aggression and militarization of their communities.
In a press conference on July 18, indigenous youth leaders from Luzon, Vizayas and Mindanao appealed to the president to instead address the threats to their education, ancestral land and cultural heritage. They reiterated that their opposition to large-scale mining, energy projects and corporate plantations destroying their ancestral lands are met with violence and human rights violation by state security forces.
The youth leaders were in Baguio City for Siklab Philippine Indigenous Youth Network’s Media and Campaign Advocacy Training held at Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary last July 16 to 17.
Ritchell Hilogon, a Lumad youth said that the declaration of Martial Law over Mindanao has forced many of indigenous people to again leave their villages and seek refuge in evacuation centers due to fear of being killed in the relentless war.
Hilogon said children and youth are afraid to go to school especially because government troops usually occupy schools and set up their camps within school premises. “Most of the parents choose to not send their children to school due to fear that enemies of government troops might attack,” she said in Bisaya.
Hilogon said civilians, especially indigenous people are the ones suffering from martial law. “Martial law in reality is disrupting and endangering the lives of civilians,” she added.
She called on the president to lift martial law saying that the government can still pursue terrorists even without martial law.
Perigreno Dote, a Tumanduk youth called on their fellow youth in the Vizayas and the entire country to also call for the lifting of Martial Law in Mindanao. He said that this is not just an issue for people in Mindanao but a concern for everyone because it affects the entire country.
“We should not wait for Martial Law to be declared all over the country, we start mobilizing against it now before it is too late,” he said.
Bryan John Bimmactad an Ifugao youth said that their mountains and rivers are also threatened by the 360 megawatt hydropower project of SN Aboitiz Power Group (SNAP). He said that the project will affect the Alimit and Ibulao rivers.
In 2014, the DOE awarded a renewable energy service contract (RESC) to SNAP for an integrated hydropower complex to be composed of three facilities: the 100-MW Alimit plant, the 240-MW pumped storage facility and the 10-MW Olilicon plant that will affect some 80 villages of Lagawe, Mayaoyao and Aguinaldo towns.
It can be recalled that SNAP has taken over three major dams in North Luzon, the Binga and Ambuklao dams in Benguet and Magat dam in the boundaries of Ifugao and Isabela.
Kalinga folks are also protesting the ressurection of dam projects along the Chico River, according to Mark “Bukaw” Bangit, a Kalinga youth said they are currently mobilizing against the hydropower projects of San Lorenzo Ruiz and Builders Group in partnership with Kalinga Hydro, Inc. (KHI) that include a 52 megawatt project in Lucog village, 37MW in Dupag village and 17MW in Tomiangan and Cagaluan villages. He said that these projects affects the Chico, Tanudan and Pasil rivers.
Rodel Cruz, a Dumagat youth from Southern Tagalog said they have long been protesting the Laiban dam because it will destroy their ancestral land and take away their culture. “We indigenous people have survived through generations from the bounties of the forest and the rivers, if these are destroyed we will die,” he said.
Crus said the Dumagat youth are one with their elders in fighting for their precious land. He said they continue defending their land amid State violence and repression because without their land they would not only lose their source of food and their homes but their culture as well.
Our life, the life of our tribe, depends, and is deeply rooted in our ancestral land. If we are uprooted from our ancestral land, we will die. That is why we fight,” he said. # nordis.net