Surigao del Sur Lumads flee military activity anew

Around 758 people from two towns in Surigao del Sur evacuated their homes, citing militarization in their area. Higala Friends of the Lumad in Caraga

Surigao del Sur Lumads flee military activity anew
(Philstar.com) - February 2, 2018 - 3:11pm
MANILA, Philippines — Lumad residents of Lianga and San Agustin towns in Surigao del Sur have been forced to seek shelter because of military activity in the area, a non-government organization said.
 
According to Friends of the Lumad in Caraga, 161 families — 758 people — from 12 communities of the two town had to leave their homes on January 29 and head to Barangay Diatogon in Lianga for safety.
 
"The past weeks had been terrifying for the Lumad as the military were in their farms since January 8 and have been directly harassing them and threatening their lives, making it difficult for them to tend their farms and earn a living," the group said in a press statement on Thursday.
 
The group claimed that there have been at least 10 cases of threats, harassment and intimidation, with soldiers interrogating residents on their way home or to their farms. Military activity led Lumads to leave their homes in late November.
 
"The military tagged them either as members or supporters of the New People’s Army. They took the names and pictures of the victims and threatened them that if anything would happen to the soldiers, they will go after them," FLC said.
 
Malahutayong Pakigbisog alang sa Sumusunod (Persevering Struggle for the Next Generation, Mapasu), one of the organizations that the military has linked to the communist NPA, said in a separate release that Lumadsare are "now afraid to go to our farms, to get what our traps caught and harvest wild abaca in the forest, because the military may be encamped in our farms."
 
Lumad communities in Lianga left their homes in 2015 after a paramilitary group killed the executive director and two members of a community-run alternative learning center. They were able to return in late 2016 but again left their homes in July and November 2017, citing military activity.
 
"We understand that the operations are meant to destroy our organization and our established alternative schools to facilitate the entry of mining in our ancestral lands," Mapasu said.
 
"We do not want to be dislocated again," it also said.

Investors for ancestral lands

Reports of the evacuation came as President Rodrigo Duterte met in Davao City with representatives of the indigenous peoples of Mindanao.
 
Aside from promising vocational training through the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, he said he would look for investors for IP-held ancestral domain.
 
"I will do it myself so there won't be any graft and corruption. I will work... I have Cabinet members here. Secretary [Jesus] Dureza is there... [Tesda Director General Guiling] Mamondiong," he said in Bisaya. "I'll choose the investor."
 
Among the areas he mentioned that he wants opened to investment are Mount Talomo — part of the Apo-Talomo mountain range in the Davao region — the Anda Valley Complex in Surigao del Sur and Mount Kitanglad in Bukidnon. 
 
"If you say you don't want to mine, then don't. No mines. If you say it will pollute your area, we'll block it," he also said. He said, though, that IPs who agree to have mines put up in their ancestral domains are free to do so.
 
"It's impossible not to mine. But if you say you don't want it, I won't coerce you. I will ban it," he said.
 
Under the law, IPs have the right to decide for themselves how their ancestral domain will be used and developed. Activities like mining require free and informed prior consent from the IP community. However, disputes on who should represent the community and give that consent has also led to conflict within IP groups.
 
The Armed Forces of the Philippines in December said that Lumad evacuations are part of a strategy of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
 
The president has declared the CPP and NPA as terrorist organizations, although a court decision is needed to make the eclaration official under the Human Security Act of 2007.
 
"They will try to entice, they will make our indigenous peoples in the mountain go down to the city centers as evacuees and confront local governments and national governments and give demands, which they have been doing ever since," Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla, AFP spokesperson, said then.
 
Duterte said Thursday that the NPA is using Lumads against the government and each other. "And those leaders... tribal leaders that they can't recruit because they are loyal to the government, they murder," he said.
 
Datu Jerome Succor Aba, co-chairperson of Sandugo – Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-determination, said in a separate statement Friday, however, that "it is not the Lumad who are making trouble." He said: "It is your government and the corporations that are making trouble."
 
He said that despite constitutional protection for the ancestral land of national minorities, the government has been "salivating to sell it to big foreign investors, such as mining and plantations."  — Jonathan de Santos

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