Sheltering Lumads not a crime, environmental groups stress

Ratziel San Juan - Philstar.com
Sheltering Lumads not a crime, environmental groups stress
Workers from environmental groups Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment and the Center for Environmental Concerns - Philippines on Oct. 7, 2019 said they confirmed from a local official an attempt by the Philippine National Police to raid their shared headquarters in Quezon City.
Aldo Nelbert Banaynal / File

MANILA, Philippines — Members of environmental groups Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment and the Center for Environmental Concerns — Philippines on Monday said they have confirmed from an unnamed local official that the Philippine National Police try to raid their shared headquarters in Quezon City.

The groups said the official, whose identity they withheld for safety reasons, told them a contingent of the National Capital Region Police Office tried to raid their office last Friday for "allegedly harboring indigenous Lumad children and educating them to be activists."

"The threat of raid in our office is an example of the shrinking spaces for civil society organizations in the country," Center for Environment Concerns Philippines Executive Director April Porteria said.

The groups were set to file a blotter report following separate incidents such police vehicles driving within the vicinity of their headquarters when they learned of the raid attempt from a local official who had accompanied the NCRPO, according to Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment Global Coordinator Clemente Bautista.

The raid was apparently frustrated after an official discouraged the NCRPO operatives from going through with it without a search warrant, the environmental groups said in a joint release.

'Since when has sheltering Lumads been a crime?'

“For the record, we have indeed opened our office space as a temporary sanctuary for Lumad leaders and students who have evacuated from Mindanao to Metro Manila to escape and raise alarm over violent attacks against their tribes, lands, and schools,” they said. 

“Since when has this been a crime? Does this even warrant a raid of our offices?”

The groups said Lumads—a collective name for the non-Muslim indigenous peoples of Mindanao—are instrumental in solving ecological crises in the country since they "are the natural stewards of at least 7.7 million hectares of forests, agricultural lands, rivers, and reefs covered by their ancestral domain across the island of Mindanao."

They said, however, that the Lumads have become targets for displacement by environmentally-destructive business interests. 

RELATED: Philippines most dangerous for land, environment defenders in 2018 — watchdog

Almost half of all the 225 environment-related killings monitored since 2001 happened in Mindanao, and indigenous peoples comprised more than a third of all the victims, according to the environmental groups.

"Bakit inaatake ang mga tagapagtanggol ng kalikasan? Dahil kami ay lumalaban sa mga mapanirang proyekto ng mga korporasyon tulad ng minahan ng OceanaGold at reklamasyon ng San Miguel Corporation,” Bautista said.

(Why are environmental activists being persecuted? Because we resist destructive corporate projects like OceanaGold’s mining and San Miguel Corporation’s reclamation)

At least 54 indigenous peoples were victims of extrajudicial killings between July 2016 and June 2019, according to data by human rights monitor Karapatan. Another four were victims of enforced disappearance during the same period.

“Hindi lang kami nagpapatuloy ng Lumad dito, kundi kasama kami sa mga campaign. Lalo na against large-scale mining at yung mga coal projects na nakaamba na pumasok sa kanilang komunidad,” Bautista said.

(We don’t just shelter Lumads, we’re also part of their campaign, especially against large-scale mining and coal projects set to encroach their communities.)

Karapatan also tallied more than 450,000 cases of forced evacuation under the Duterte administration.

Save Our Schools Network Spokesperson Ruis Valle linked militarization of Lumad communities to the prevalence of mining interests in the region.

"Umaabot sa 136 Lumad schools na ang pinasara. Nakikitang ito ay kaugnay sa 19 mining applications sa Pantaron Range," Valle said.

(At least 136 Lumad schools have been shut down. No doubt this is connected to 19 mining applications at the Pantaron Range.)






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