By NADET DOLIPAS-CAPUYAN
BAGUIO CITY — Several indigenous peoples groups in the Philippines led by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) have called for the dissolution of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) during the 13th United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) at the UN headquarters in New York, United States of America.
“The NCIP has for a long time failed to protect indigenous peoples’ rights and well-being and instead worsens the violations of indigenous peoples’ rights and human rights. It is for this reason that our organizations are now calling for the dismantling of the NCIP,” the groups said during the UNFPII’s joint intervention in relation to Agenda item 3 or the study on best practices and examples in resolving land disputes and land claims, in relation to the NCIP of the Philippines.
The UNPFII is an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council (Ecosoc) whose mandate is to discuss indigenous issues related to economic, social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights. The said forum is held every year for 10 days. This year, it runs from May 12 to 23.
“The NCIP is mandated by law, through the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997, to promote and protect the rights and well-being of the indigenous peoples in the country. However, for 17 years since its establishment in 1997, the NCIP has not truly upheld indigenous peoples’ rights. Instead, it served as a tool for perpetrating development aggression and massive natural resource extraction, systematic land grabbing, human rights violations, and violations to our right to self-determination, self-determined sustainable development, and collective rights to our land and resources,” the groups said.
Leaders of Innabuyog Gabriela of the Cordillera, Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Kamp), Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad sa Mindanao (Kalumaran), Tumanduk from the Visayas, and BAI National Alliance of Indigenous Women’s Organizations in the Philippines also attended the UNPFII.
Nordis tried to get the reaction of NCIP Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) regional Director Amador Batay-an and NCIP CAR legal officer John Libiran but both were unavailable.
The indigenous peoples groups deemed that the NCIP has failed to fulfill its mandate. According to the groups, in its 11 years of existence, the NCIP processed “less than eight percent of the estimated 7.5 million hectares land area of ancestral domain” while it issued “175 certificates for development projects of foreign mining companies and other business in indigenous lands.” The groups also claimed that it only takes four months for a mining company to secure its permit from the NCIP while IP groups have to wait for six or more years for the recognition of their ancestral domain.
The groups cited in particular that the NCIP provincial office in Kalinga made the indigenous peoples sign a resolution of consent in favor of the Makilala Mining Project of Freeport-Macmoran in Guinaang, Pasil, Kalinga without providing the necessary information for the community to make an informed decision.
The groups also accused the NCIP of creating a fake ouncil of elders, despite the existence of the Guinaang tribe’s own Council of Elders, allegedly to manipulate the resolution of consent. The tribal leaders then petitioned the NCIP to issue a temporary restraining order against the free prior and informed consent (FPIC) process but the NCIP claims that there are no FPIC process irregularities.
The groups also cited how the NCIP “manipulated the FPIC process for exploration of the huge Tampakan Mining project of Glencore-Xstrata-SMI in Mindanao, setting up fake tribal councils and undermining the customary decision-making processes of the affected B’laan communities.”
The NCIP also issued permits to mining companies in the ancestral domain of the Pelawan indigenous peoples in Sofronio Española in Palawan despite serious violations of FPIC processes.
Aside from these, they described how “among the Iraya Mangyan in Abra de Ilog, Mindoro, the voice of the opposition was not reflected in the final memorandum of agreement between the community and the Agusan Petroleum and Mineral Corporation (APMC).”
The indigenous peoples groups noted how the NCIP failed to act in order to defend indigenous peoples from the alarming rise of human rights violations under the administration of Philippine president Benigno C. Aquino III. In a span of four years, “there have been 44 indigenous peoples killed including six children; 18 incidents of forced evacuation in five provinces; 16 incidents of harassment and encampment by the military in indigenous peoples schools; and numerous cases of political vilification and filing of charges against indigenous leaders and organizations.” www.nordis.net / Posted by Bulatlat.com)