Continuing displacement from ancestral lands raised in Geneva

By SHERWIN DE VERA
www.nordis.net

BAGUIO CITY — Government and corporate investment projects continue to displace indigenous peoples (IP) in many Asian countries, including the Philippines,  from their ancestral lands according to the statement prepared by Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) and Asia Indigenous Peoples Caucus.

Philippine Task Force for Indigenous People (TFIP) Executive Director Jaqueline Cariño presented this, on behalf of the group, during the 12th session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) on July 16 in Geneva, Switzerland.

HEAR US! Jaqueline Carino  (rightmost), executive director of TFIP and deputy secretary-general for external affairs of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance presenting the statement on behalf of the Asia caucus on the indigenous people’s rights in the context of borders, migration, and of the displacement. Photo courtesy of TFIP

Cariño, who hails from a well-known Ibaloi clan in Baguio, said that eviction of indigenous peoples from their lands is “due to various historical and contemporary factors and issues.” She identified the “non-recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights” in the course of implementing state and private investments and programs as the foremost reason.

“This leads to development aggression and displacement by dams, mining, energy projects, logging, plantations, and tourism projects,” she said.

According to her, dam projects displaced close to half a million indigenous peoples from their land and livelihood in India, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, and Nepal. Meanwhile, in the Philippines, the government has already identified 117 dam projects under its “Build, Build, Build” program.

“The Kaliwa Dam alone will displace 1,400 indigenous Dumagat families and affect more than 100,000 people,” she said.

The government claims that the P18.72 billion New Centennial Water Source – Kaliwa Dam Project is essential to meet the domestic water needs of Metro Manila. It is funded through a loan agreement with China signed during the state visit of President Xi Jinping in November 2018.

Cariño explained that the estimated figure does not include those displaced and forced out of their territories by planned and on-going large-scale mining operations in other Asian countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia, and Myanmar.

Also cited in her presentation is the impact of “conservation” programs and projects that do not take into account the existence of indigenous peoples dwelling and dependent on the forest for their survival. She said that prohibitions of traditional livelihoods in designated “conservation areas” are forms of economic dislocation and violation of indigenous peoples, forest rights.

“Resettlement and transmigration policies of the government in some countries have caused the influx of migrants into indigenous peoples’ territories, resulting in social conflict, discrimination, and minoritization of indigenous peoples,” she added.

Cariño pointed out that “poverty, unemployment, and neglect of social services and basic infrastructures” in areas occupied by indigenous peoples are also significant drivers of outmigration.

“In addition, displacement due to natural and man-made calamities, such as typhoons, flooding, landslides, earthquakes, fire, and demolition of houses is also significant, aggravating the vulnerability of indigenous people,” she said.

Counterinsurgency and militarization

Among the factors highlighted, which cited the situation in the Philippines, is the counter-insurgency campaign and militarization.

Cariño underscored that massive military deployment and relentless combat operations in indigenous peoples’ land “result to wide-scale displacement and violations of our civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.”

HANDS OFF ACTIVIST. (From left to right) Cariño with UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Vicky Tauli-Corpuz and Chris Chapman of Amnesty International at the side event on Criminalization of Indigenous Peoples during the 12th session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP). Photo from Jill Cariño

She said that to suppress local resistance against destructive projects, government and investors employ state military, police and paramilitary forces, and private armed groups. Local leaders and the oppositions also suffer from criminalization, branded as rebels or terrorist and slapped with trumped-up charges.

In the same event, during the country engagement, Cariño also delivered the Cordillera Peoples Alliance’s (CPA) statement focusing on the impact of the “IP-centric Whole-of-Nation” military campaign. Aside from heading the TFIP, she is also the CPA vice-chairperson for external affairs.

She stressed that with the counterinsurgency plan, state forces and agencies are “are targeting indigenous peoples as though they are terrorists.”

“Indigenous peoples are subjected to harassment, trumped-up charges, intimidation, threats, surveillance, vilification, arrest, detention, and extra-judicial killings, sowing fear among the people and leading to forced evacuations,” she said.

Citing figures from Kalumaran, an island-wide indigenous peoples organization in Mindanao, Cariño stressed that the militaristic policy of the Philippines has displaced almost half a million (577,161) Lumad. She warned of more forced evacuation of indigenous peoples with the intensified implementation of the “whole-of-nation approach” under the counterinsurgency plan “Kapayapaan” and “Kapanatagan”.

Recommendations

To address the displacement and forced migrations of indigenous peoples, Cariño said that legal recognition should be given to their traditional land tenure and management system. This includes respecting their right to protect their land and territories, and their free prior and informed consent before.

Governments should also cease militarization of their communities, and resettlement and transmigration programs that discriminate and minoritize indigenous peoples in their native homelands.

She pointed out that provision of sufficient social services and support infrastructures are necessary to prevent forced outmigration of indigenous peoples from their territories.

On the particular concern of the indigenous peoples in the Philippines, Cariño urged the EMRIP to conduct an inquiry on the violation of indigenous peoples’ rights. This, according to her, is cognizant the recent Human Rights Council Resolution to investigate human rights violations in the country.

Specifically, Cariño urged the body to “look into State instrumentalities such as the Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Action (IACLA), the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), the military, police and its support paramilitary groups that are being used to terrorize and criminalize indigenous peoples.” # nordis.net

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