August 9 has been declared by the United Nations as International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. This day has become an occasion to highlight indigenous peoples’ issues and to celebrate the victories in their struggles around the world.
In the Philippines, indigenous peoples safeguard much of the country’s remaining natural resources in their ancestral domains – minerals, forests, rivers and fertile agricultural lands. Yet, this immense wealth is threatened with plunder by foreign corporate interests – large mining corporations, mega-dam projects, destructive energy projects like geothermal and coal, and monocrop plantations of fruits and biofuels. Infrastructure projects, as well as environmental programs such as protected areas, national parks and the National Greening Program are encroaching into indigenous peoples’ territories.
These projects overlap many times over the ancestral lands of indigenous peoples, causing displacement of communities, destruction of forests, mountain and rivers, degradation of the environment, land rights alienation, loss of traditional livelihoods, social conflict and dissolution of culture. All these will ultimately lead to ethnocide – the death and extinction of indigenous peoples’ culture and identity.
It is not hard to fathom why indigenous peoples have no other option but to resist these threats and fight for survival. Land and life are at stake here, including the birthright of succeeding generations to live on their ancestral lands, guided by the values and traditions taught by their forebears. Indeed, indigenous peoples throughout the country are asserting their internationally recognized right to self-determination and fighting to defend their land, life and rights from decimation.
However, indigenous peoples are being criminalized and terrorized for defending their collective rights. The Philippine government under the leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte is clamping down on legitimate dissent in a much more comprehensive and vicious way. A climate of impunity prevails all over the country as the whole arsenal of State instrumentalities has connived to criminalize indigenous peoples and human rights defenders. The recent petition filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) for proscription of the CPP-NPA as terrorist organizations targets more than 600 individuals, including innocent civilians and prominent indigenous peoples’ rights activists from the Cordillera.
In this situation of injustice and tyranny, several indigenous peoples organizations, human rights defenders and advocates have come together to launch a campaign against criminalization, impunity and tyranny in the Philippines. For indigenous peoples, there is no other way to go but to fight for what is right and just, and to defend their rights to land, life and self-determination! # nordis.net