For the Philippines’s Tribal Folk, a Constant War Against ‘Development Aggression’

In Rizal and Quezon provinces, the controversial Laiban dam project threatens to displace 10,000 upland residents, mostly of Dumagat and Remontado tribes.

In General Nakar, Quezon, the Tulaog Cave, a sacred place of worship for the Dumagats, has been declared a tourist spot.

Military Deployment

In these areas of so-called development projects, military deployment is inevitable, Calbayog said.

Genasque Enriquez, general secretary of the regional tribal Filipino group Kasalo and from the Manobo tribe, said the militarization of communities in Surigao del Sur aims to pave the way for the entry of mining corporations.

In 2008, the Arroyo government formed the Investment Defense Force (IDF) to protect mining, infrastructure and other development projects from the attacks of rebel groups. The government has also offered to train private guards to protect mines.

In Santa Cruz, Zambales, the Inquirer reported that a memorandum of agreement (MOA), was signed between the Army’s 7th Infantry Division and DMCI Mining Corp. to protect at least 3,700-hectares of ore-rich land.

Counter-insurgency

In Capiz and Iloilo provinces, counter-insurgency operations of the military have affected the livelihood of indigenous tribe Tumandok.

Aileen Catamin, leader of Tumandok nga Mangunguma nga Nagapangapin sa Duta Kag Kabuhi (Tumanduk), said that since June, elements of the 47th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army have occupied the upland villages in Calinog, Iloilo and eight villages in Tapas, Capiz.

“Our economic activities are affected. The soldiers restrict out movement,” Catamin told Bulatlat in an interview.

Before the soldiers came, the Tumandoks work on their farms from as early as 4 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. These days, they are allowed to go to their farms by 8 a.m. and must be home by 4 p.m.

The soldiers, Catamin said, would call for assemblies and urge them to ask the New People’s Army (NPA) to surrender. The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

“On June 29 this year, after the soldiers were ambushed by the NPA, the soldiers threw two explosives at our village,” Catamin recalled. “Our place is three kilometers away from the ambush site. Luckily, nobody was hurt.”

In Barangay Aglinab, also in Tapas, Catamin said that the soldiers used civilians, including children, as shields against the NPA.

In Calinog, Iloilo, the watershed and reforestration projects of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) have prevented the Tumandoks from going through their livelihood activities.

Toothless Government Agencies, Policy

All indigenous peoples leaders interviewed by Bulatlat said the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) has been “toothless” in helping them.

Aeta leader Mallari said that whenever they seek assistance from NCIP, they rarely get concrete answers. “In cases of mining, the NCIP officials would tell us there is a national policy [referring to Mining Act of 1995] and that there is nothing they can do,” Mallari said.

Mallari added that the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), or Republic Act. No. 8371, actually legalized grabbing of ancestral land.

Mallari explained that provisions pertaining to Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title and the Certificate of Ancestral Lands Title compel them to pay for the land and for taxes to the national government.

“This scheme destroys our collective living and teaches us to be individualists,” Mallari said.

Tumandok leader Catamin holds the same view. “Those land titles will not resolve our problem. What we want is to get back our ancestral land,” she said.

Mallari said they continue to rely on themselves to assert their rights. (Bulatlat.com)

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