Killings, land grabs threaten Filipino indigenous peoples

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – At least a hundred indigenous women and men in their traditional attire braved the monsoon rains here as they marched down Session Road to mark World Indigenous Peoples Day and to call attentions to life-threatening issues affecting Filipino IPs.
Foisting an “Indigenous Peoples Agenda”, Igorot leader Abigail Anongos said main points include the resumption of the peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, genuine recognition of indigenous peoples’ right to ancestral land and self-determination, a stop to the plunder of resources in indigenous territories, and sufficient and appropriate basic social services and support for victims of disasters.
United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, an Igorot woman leader from Besao, Mt. Province, called “for a full review of mining projects and agribusiness expansion in indigenous peoples’ territories to be done by impartial and independent actors to assess how such operations have violated the rights of indigenous peoples which are enshrined in the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
Tauli-Corpuz in a statement from Quezon City said, “the extrajudicial killings of the Lumad (indigenous peoples) in Mindanao, which took place under the previous governments are still happening now according to the latest two allegations I received.”
The extrajudicial killings of Lumad and other indigenous peoples have yet to be resolved as no one has been brought to justice, she added.
“If the government wants to address the long history of injustice committed [against] indigenous peoples, it has to be more decisive in pinning down perpetrators regardless of who they are,” Tauli-Corpuz added.
The UN official cited the most recent case on July 12, 2016 in Sumilao, Bukidnon where security guards of cattle ranch RAMCAR Inc. reportedly killed Remar Mayantao, Senon Nacaytuna, Rogen Suminao and wounded a 15-year old female.
Likewise, the murder of Emerito Samarca, a pioneer of indigenous alternative education system in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, and two other indigenous leaders has yet to be resolved.
The UN special rapporteur also noted that indigenous peoples need their land to be productive and are secured from illegal logging and mining, and plantations and other forms of land grabbing for true social and economic development to happen.
Alicia Agabas from Guina-ang, Pasil, Kalinga, said they are mapping their ancestral land to protect it from proposed mining claims. “Through community mapping, we saw that if the mining pushes through, it will destroy our ricefields, our forestlands, our livelihoods and ultimately, us.”
The Guinaang people of Pasil, Kalinga started mapping their territory in September 2015 and have since reaffirmed their territorial boundary with neighboring indigenous groups.
The Makilala Mining Company applied for exploration permit in Guina-ang, Pasil in 2010. The local villagers -- led by the Indigenous Farmers Association of Guina-ang, Pasil (IFAGPI) -- have opposed it.
Large-scale mining will not only ravage flora and fauna, Agabas said, but will also allegedly destroy the culture, the people and the mere survival of the “tribo” (tribe).
Agabas is asking President Rodrigo Duterte to help her people stop large-scale mining in her community and for agricultural assistance for them to further help themselves. 
“Through mapping, we were able to validate that our territory is very rich in natural resources. While a certificate or title is good, what we need now is irrigation for our fields and protection from the mining company,” she said.
In the celebration of the world’s indigenous peoples’ day, the clamor of indigenous peoples is for true inclusive development for indigenous peoples to happen.
In 1994, the United Nations General Assembly declared August 9 the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

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