Leaders of Lumad organizations from six regional federations representing some 10 major tribes in Mindanao vowed to defend the last of their ancestral lands against the assault of large-scale mining.
BY TYRONE VELEZ
Dipolog City— Leaders of Lumad organizations from six regional federations representing some 10 major indigenous tribes in Mindanao vowed to defend the last of their ancestral lands against the assault of large-scale mining during the conclusion of the Mindanao Indigenous People’s Conference on Mining last January 18 at the Diocesan Pastoral Center.
The conference gathered representatives from the Ata-Manobo, Bagobo, Matigsalog, and Dibabawon of Southern Mindanao, the Manobo and Mamanwa of Caraga region, the Subanen of Western Mindanao, the B’laan and T’boli of Socskargen, the Higaonon of Bukidnon, the Manobo and Banwaon of Agusan.
Timuay (village elder) Bernito Sanhilan, leader of the Salabukan Nok G’taw Subanen (SGS or Unity of Subanen People), an organization of the Subanen tribe living at Mt. Malindang in Western Mindanao, said that Lumad leaders are willing to die in defense of their land. “Die today, die tomorrow, its all the same,” Sanhilan said. He emphasized that the Lumads have a long history of struggle against the incursions of mining, logging and agribusiness operations into their ancestral domain.
Canadian Toronto Ventures, Inc. (TVI), a mining company, operates in lands belonging to the Subanen at Mt. Canatuan, Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte. Sagittarius Mines, Inc. and its partner Indophil conduct exploration activities on B’laan lands in Sultan Kudarat, Davao del Sur and South Cotabato.
Subanen Timuay Jose Anoy said that they were driven out of their lands by TVI even if they have a certificate of ancestral domain from the government. The military, Anoy said, refuses to let him into his home at Mt. Canatuan, Siocon for three years now.
Joel Buklas of Kasalu, a federation of indigenous people’s organizations in the Caraga region in Mindanao, denounced the eviction of indigenous peoples from their ancestral land through force, government programs and laws such as the National Integrated Protected Areas (NIPAS) and Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA). He said that government programs and laws deprive indigenous peoples of their rights and land and create divisions among them.
“Giilog sa gobyerno ang yutang kabilin sa Lumad pinaagi sa mga balaod susama sa NIPAS, Pasture Lease, reforestation sa Integrated Forestry Management Agreements (IFMA), Philippine Mining Act ug uban pa,” (The government grabs the ancestral domain of Lumads through various laws such as NIPAS, Pasture Lease, Reforestation through IFMA, the Philippine Mining Act among others.) he remarked.
The participants to the conference also accused mining companies of supporting the military’s practice of recruiting Lumads to paramilitary groups such as the Alamara in Southern Mindanao and the Salawakan in Northern Mindanao, among others. These paramilitary groups, said the participants, are being used to harass their communities.
Norma Capuyan of the Apo Sandawa Lumadnong Panaghiusa (Apo Sandawa Union of Lumads) sa Cotabato said, “Subsob ang gihimong pagpangrekrut sa military sa among mga Lumad pinaagi sa pinugos nga pag-rekrut o pagpalingla, aron gamiton kami sa counter-insurgency,” (There is rampant recruitment among Lumads, by force or by deception, for counter-insurgency operations.)
The conference called on the government to repeal the Mining Act of 1995 and other laws that lead to environmental destruction; review the IPRA; stop large-scale mining operations and explorations; and end militarization in Lumad communities.
The regional federations also coalesced into a preparatory council for the Mindanao Lumad confederation with Datu Monico Cayog of Southern Mindanao’s Pasaka elected as chair and Datu Magno Limbasan of Northern Mindanao’s Kasalu as vice chair.
The regional federations, which coalesced, are Kalumbay Northern Mindanao, Pasaka Southern Mindanao, Kaluhhamin Socsksargen, Kasalu Caraga, SGS and Pig Salabukan Nog Bansang Subanen (PBS or Unity of Subanon Tribes) Western Mindanao.
The activity is supported by Panalipdan Mindanao, a Mindanao-wide alliance of environment advocates, Protect Zamboanga del Norte, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dipolog, and the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP). Bulatlat.com