Tribal Rights Still Being Violated to Favor Mining Interests

The Aquino government continues to implement Arroyo’s National Minerals Policy, said Piya Malayao, spokeswoman of KAMP. “Aquino’s private-public partnerships would further hasten foreign investments on mining at the expense of indigenous peoples,” Malayao added.

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – For the indigenous peoples in the Philippines, the year 2010 is a continuation of their struggle for land, their right to self-determination and their most basic human rights.

In August, leaders of the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP or Alliance of Indigenous Peoples) submitted an indigenous peoples (IP) agenda to President Benigno S. Aquino III. Their demands include: Stop the plunder of ancestral domain, stop all destructive projects, repeal the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (RA 8371), end militarization and violations of IP rights, justice for IPs whose rights were violated, uphold the integrity of the partylist system that is infiltrated by government and military-backed lumads, advance peace talks, and implement international agreements that the Philippine government has signed that respect the rights of IPs.

None of their demands have so far been acted upon by the new administration.

Large-scale mining continues to threaten the lives and livelihood of indigenous peoples (IP).

The Aquino government continues to implement Arroyo’s National Minerals Policy, said Piya Malayao, spokeswoman of KAMP, in an interview with Bulatlat. “The priority mining projects remain. Out of the 62 areas identified for mining, 39 are IP lands,” Malayao said. “Aquino’s private-public partnerships would further hasten foreign investments on mining at the expense of indigenous peoples,” Malayao added.

KAMP is a national federation of indigenous people’s groups with 285 local organizations from 41 provinces nationwide.

Citing data from the Mineral and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), KAMP said that from January 1 to June 29 this year, 54 mining explorations, sharing agreements, processing permits and other mining agreements covering IP lands were approved and renewed. Under the five-month old Aquino presidency, more than 24, 316 hectares of land were earmarked for mining exploration.

“President Aquino praised the past administration’s ‘achievements’ in the mining sector, notwithstanding the tremendous environmental and social impact of large-scale mines to communities. Accompanied by militarization, corporate mining caused the largest distress among indigenous peoples during Arroyo’s term,” Malayao said.

Malayao, an Igorot from Bontoc, Mountain Province, said Aquino’s private-public partnerships (PPPs) would worsen the problems confronted by indigenous peoples.

KAMP criticized Aquino for supporting mining and ‘paying lip service to IP rights’ through the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) process enshrined in the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (RA 8371.) The FPIC process requires mining companies to secure the community’s permission before exploring ancestral domains.

“Mere consent is not what we are seeking. We demand genuine respect for our rights to land and resources,” Malayao said. “Our rights encompass not only the economic, but cultural, social and political as well.”??The young IP leader said the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) has not upheld the rights of the IP but has ‘consistently collaborated with mining corporations.’

Malayao cited the case of Tampakan gold mining. She said the NCIP facilitated what she calls bogus consultations between Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) and some of the IP leaders in Columbio, Sultan Kudararat. “SMI exploited the poverty of the B’laan tribe, offered them scholarships and health services, built roads, provided vehicles for transportation and gave out seedlings for livelihood,” Malayao said, adding that these ‘bribes’ and the mining company’s failure to disclose the possible negative impact and other information about their operations violate the principles of the FPIC.

In the Cordillera, particularly in Benguet province, Malayao said mining companies, faced with opposition from IP communities, would repeatedly woo the IP to obtain FPIC.

“The little acknowledgement by which Aquino regards indigenous peoples is demeaning to the centuries of struggle of our people,” Malayao said. “To merely ‘study’ the FPIC process is way below the mark. Our communities are being ravaged, militarized, and our people have been killed to give way to mining interests. We demand no less than a revocation of mining permits in indigenous communities resisting mining plunder.”

In Mindanao, the island’s remaining resources are under threat of aggressive expansion of agri-business investments, energy projects and open-pit mining operations. Datu Monico Cayog, chairperson of Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad (Kalumaran) and a Bagobo leader in Davao del Sur, said Lumad ancestral lands have also been attractive sites for dam and energy projects like the Pulangi V Project in Bukidnon-North Cotabato and Agus Dam; mining and logging in Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental and Caraga region among others.

Rights Abuses

Under the Aquino administration, three Dumagat from Montalban, Rizal have become victims of extrajudicial killings. On July 19, Dumagat farmers Benita San Jose, Demilita Largo and Edward Galman Navarte were shot at by suspected soldiers.

Another Dumagat, Eddie Cruz, has been arrested in June by the same soldiers who slept at their nipa hut in Rodriguez, Rizal . Cruz, along with two others, were tagged as members of the New People’s Army (NPA), armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines. He is still languishing in jail at Camp Bagong Diwa.

Of the 43 health workers arrested on Feb. 6 or the so-called Morong 43, three are IPs. Ray-on Among is a Mangyan; Angela Doloricon is an Igorot and John Mark Barrientos is half-Dumagat. While Among and Doloricon were freed this December, along with 31 others, Barrientos remains under military captivity at Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal.

Malayao said IP communities are afflicted by heavy military operations. “The soldiers would stay in the communities, steal livestock and in some instances, burn down houses of indigenous peoples,” she said. “Mauling by soldiers is common and some IPs are being used as guide to so-called NPA camps,” she added.

Malayao added that IPs are being recruited to paramilitary units such as Citizens Armed Force Geographical Unit (Cafgu), Civilian Volunteer Organization (CVO) and particularly in Mindanao, to Task Force Gantangan. Malayao said that under the guise of counterinsurgency operations, IPs are being used against IPs.

According to KAMP, there are 139 IP victims of extrajudicial killings from 2001. Malayao said they demand justice for all the victims of human rights abuses under the Arroyo government.

Discrimination

Besides mining, development aggression and human rights violations, IPs continue to face discrimination.

“Ignorance is still prevalent,” Malayao told Bulatlat.
One such instance is the way three Igorots were treated by the security escorts of former US President Bill Clinton during a forum in Manila in November. The Igorots were forced to leave the venue of the forum because they were wearing g-strings.

Malayao also criticized ecotourism in IP communities saying that it corrupts their culture. “While they say that it promotes our culture, it is in fact a bastardization of our culture because the meaning is lost.”
She said that even as the Ifugao rice terraces is considered a tourist spot, the government has not supported agriculture in the area, leading to degeneration of the rice terraces.

Continuing Resistance

Malayao said that in 2010, IP communities continued to resist mining and development aggression. KAMP has identified Ancestral Land at Risk of Mining (Alarm) sites such as in Bakun, Benguet, Tampakan in Mindanao and Diwalwal in Davao.

Malayao said due to lobbying of IP groups, the House Committee on National Cultural Communities adopted a resolution calling for a moratorium on mining operations. Teddy Baguilat Jr., representative of Ifugao’s lone district, chairs the committee.

In November, IP groups formed the IP Movement for Right to Self-Determination and Liberation, an international movement led by Philippine IP organizations.

On Dec. 5, Lumad organizations called for pigsapaan, a vow to defend land versus militarization.

“We are challenged to continue organizing and strengthening our organizations, to remain vigilant toward deception and attacks on our rights. We would continue to assert our collective rights as indigenous peoples,” Malayao said. ()

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