This solidarity statement signed by 45 different organizations across the world was delivered during the program of the ‘Eydow Tu Pakigsantuya Tu Tumindok Kane’t Caraga’, the day of struggle of the Indigenous Peoples of Caraga in reclaiming the ancestral lands of the indigenous Lumad back from the Philippine military in Surigao del Sur province. It also coincided with the first commemoration of the massacre of their Lumad leaders and school director last first of September.
A full year bereft of home, land, and justice. Such is the harrowing experience of the indigenous Lumad people in the province of Surigao del Sur, situated on the northeastern section of Mindanao region in the Philippines. Today, the prospect of their return to their ancestral lands may finally come to fruition.
Back in the first of September, 2015, over 3,000 Lumad were forcibly evacuated from the towns of Lianga, San Agustin, Marihatag, San Miguel, and Tago situated in the Andap Valley Complex, a land corridor highly mineralized with coal, gold, and copper. The Lumads’ exodus was triggered when Lumad school director Emerito Samarca and Lumad leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Juvello Sinzo were massacred by the Magahat-Bagani Force, a paramilitary group attached to the 75th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.
Military and paramilitary forces continue to violently repress grassroots communities that oppose extractive projects. The Lumad of Surigao del Sur face increasing militarization for standing up against attempts of coal mining companies to encroach into their lands. Coal mine interests cover at least 58,000 hectares in their entire region of CARAGA—the largest coal reserve in the country.
The military has justified its unabated militarization of Lumad lands as part of its counter-insurgency campaign against the civil war waged by the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed and political wings, the New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP). This mandate is used to secure so-called vital installations and other flagship projects of government and corporations such as big mines, plantations, mega dams, and other big foreign business interests in the countryside.
The increasing military presence in communities have intensified human rights violations to frontline defenders. Of all political killings inflicted to environmental activists in the Philippines recorded since 2001, 52.1 percent is suspected to involve military forces. . Killings recorded in the Mindanao region alone account for 53.1 percent of the total, and a staggering 77.1 percent are involved in mining issues.
Previous administrations failed to realize the futility of the ‘militarist solution’ to end the people’s resistances and the armed revolutionary movement. So long as big business interests are systematically inflicting injustices upon the Lumad and other grassroots communities, the people will rise up against corporations and their lackeys in government, even amidst impunity.
After a year of remaining in an evacuation camp in the provincial capitol of Tandag, the defiance of the Lumad and the broad national and international solidarity that it has garnered has finally been heard by the new Duterte administration.
With the historic resumption of the peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the CPP-NPA-NDFP focusing on addressing the historic social injustices that give rhyme and reason to revolution, both sides have already declared a ceasefire and have drawn an accelerated timeline in forging agreements on meaningful social, economic, and political reforms. Both the Duterte administration and the CPP-NPA-NDFP also share a common stand against environmentally destructive projects.
The momentum now is clearly on the Filipino people’s growing aspirations for a genuine peace based on social, economic, and environmental justice.
The Lumad of Surigao will reclaim their ancestral lands on September 2, and will mobilize together with solidarity groups in a Hungos-Hudyaka (Work-Celebrate), a cooperative effort in rebuilding their farms, homes, and schools. President Rodrigo Duterte himself promised that he will personally supervise the safe return of the Lumad in Surigao del Sur.
We say ‘enough is enough!’ to a year of landlessness and injustice for the Lumad. We share our solidarity with our Lumad brothers and sisters in their arduous struggle to assert their collective rights to land, livelihood, environment, and self-determination.
We unite with their continuing demands to bring to justice the paramilitary and military troops involved in the murder of the Lianga Martyrs, and the dismantling of the Magahat-Bagani and other militias that militarize the lands of the Lumad. We join the calls to ensure the pull-out of military and paramilitary troops occupying their ancestral lands, as well as the coal mining and other big business interests that seek to plunder their natural resources.
We look forward to the advancement of the GRP-NDFP peace talks to resolve the social, economic, and environmental injustices in which armed conflict is rooted. Most importantly, we commit ourselves to continue the legacy of the heroic Martyrs of Lianga by pursuing radical reforms in policies and governance to stop the systematic attacks against our people and environment.
Padayon sa Pakigbisog!
1. Active Society Nepal
2. Adivasi Navjeewan Gathan Navjyoti Agua (ANGNA)
3. Adivasi Women’s Network Central India
4. AGHAM Advocates of Science & Technology for the People
5. Asia Indigenous Peoples Network on Extractives Industry and Energy
6. Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact
7. Asia Pacific Indigenous Youth Network
8. BAN Toxics
9. Borok Peoples’ Human Rights Organisation (BPHRO)
10. Borok Indigenous Tribal Peoples Development Centre
11. Cambodia Indigenous Youth Association
12. Center for Development Programme in Cordillera
13. Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines
14. Central Taiwan Ping-pu Indigenous Groups Youth Alliance
15. Centre for Sustainable Development in Mountainous Areas
16. Chundevi Society Nepal
17. Cordillera People’s Alliance
18. Fr. Herbert Fadriquela Jr., Diocese of Leicester, Church of England
19. Gaia Foundation
20. Green Action PH
21. Ilocos Network for the Environment
22. Indigenous Nationalities Women Network, Makawanpur
23. Indigenous Nationalities Women Youth Network
24. Indigenous Women’s Network of Thailand
25. International Indigenous People’s Movement for Self Determination and Liberation
26. Jaringan Orang Asal Semalaysia
27. Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment
28. Kirat Chamling Association
29. Kirat Chamling Khambatim
30. Kirat Chamling Language Culture Development Association (KCLCDA)
31. Kirat Chamling Youth Society Papora Indigenous Development Association
32. Kirat Youth Society (KYS)Papora Indigenous Youth Council
33. London Mining Network
34. Meghalaya Peoples Human Rights Council (MPHRC)
35. Network of Indigenous Peoples in Thailand (NIPT)
36. NGO-Federation of Nepalese Indigenous Nationalities
37. People Unity Youth Society (PUYS)
38. Pesticide Action Network – Asia Pacific
39. Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya
40. Unity Society Nepal
41. Vietnam Indigenous Knowledge Network
42. William Nicholas Gomes, Human Rights Defender and Freelance Journalist, UK
43. Youth Federation of Indigenous Nationalities Nepal
44. Youth NGO-Federation
45. Youth Awareness Society Nepal