By LYN V. RAMO
MANILA — A review of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), a mining moratorium and to put a stop to the counterinsurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) became the rallying calls for more than 200 delegates representing the country’s 14 million indigenous peoples from more than ten regions in the country as they celebrated the World Indigenous Peoples Day on August 9.
Gathered in a forum that challenged the administration of Pres. Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III, the indigenous peoples’ representatives signed and adopted a resolution which asked for, among others, the immediate review of IPRA.
“IPRA is in conflict with the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, the Fisheries Code, the Forestry Code, the National Integrated Protected Area System Law and many other policies and directives,” said Giovanni Reyes, a Kankanaey from Mountain Province and secretary-general of partylist Kasapi in a separate forum in Baguio City.
Tebtebba Foundation executive director Victoria Tauli-Corpuz said indigenous peoples’ representatives must be included in the body that would study the conflict in the laws. She clarified that the body in the forum makes up the network for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and that it also includes foreign representatives as well as government agencies involved in indigenous peoples.
After discussing the content of the resolution, tribal and indigenous leaders of the Igorots, Lumads, Aetas and other indigenous groups handed a copy of the said resolution to Viel Aquino-Dee, Aquino’s sister, who came to the forum in time for the discussions on the IP Agenda resolution.
The IPs called on the Aquino government to create an independent body to review the implementation of the IPRA, evaluate the performance of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and implement a total revamp of the said agency to ‘free itself from historic inefficiency and corruption.’
The groups also called for an end to the OBL. They said they have lost their kin to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s OBL 1 and 2. Joan Jaime of Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Kamp) said 139 persons from various IP groups were summarily executed. She said three more were killed in July 2010, among the first victims during Aquino’s presidency.
Since indigenous peoples are not spared from the extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances, among many human rights violations that accompany militarization in the countryside, the forum also called on Aquino to implement immediately the recommendations of United Nations Special Rapporteur Rodolfo Stavenhagen who came in 2002 in a special Philippine Mission.
Stavenhagen issued recommendations including the investigation of the human rights violations committed under the Arroyo administration and the prosecution of the perpetrators of extrajudicial killings.
The IPs also asked Aquino to act on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), especially the eradication of poverty, and the Millennium Declaration.
The IPs also asked Aquino to form a body composed of indigenous peoples that will act as a consultative or advisory body on indigenous peoples concerns on the peace process.
“We are not a party to any of the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and either the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) or the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF),” explained Beverly Longid, president of Katribu partylist and former Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance (CPA) chair. She added that the talks are bilateral but in both talks, the issues affecting indigenous peoples must be in the agenda.
Equally important in the agenda is the call for a mining moratorium as well as the review of laws involving indigenous populations and their territories.
Windel Bolinget and Santos Mero, CPA chair and deputy secretary-general, respectively said in separate speeches during the forum that almost 1.2 million hectares of Cordillera’s 1.8 million-hectare total land area have been subjected to various mining applications on top of areas presently under active mine operations. These large-scale mining operations extend to other indigenous peoples’ territories in the mineral-rich regions Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, the Visayan regions, and Mindanao, which also have mining applications from various transnational corporations in mining.
The forum was organized by the Tebtebba Foundation, CPA, Kamp, Bai, Task Force Indigenous Peoples-EED and Kalumaran, an alliance of 18 Lumad groups in Mindanao.
This year’s IP Day celebrations opened at dawn with the Panawagtawag, a Lumad ritual invoking the successful holding of IP endeavors for the defense of land, culture and self-determination, not only in Mindanao but throughout the country, according to Dolphing Ogan of Kalumaran.
Panawagtawag, a sunrise ritual of the Lumads of Mindanao, also launched two indigenous peoples programs.
One is for strengthening Lumad self-identity, which is Kalumaran’s mobile cultural exhibit of culture against ethnocide. The other is Dinteg’s program for enhancing the capacity of indigenous peoples to monitor and document human rights violations against indigenous peoples,
European Union’s Nick Taylor attended the day-long celebration, also gracing the panel discussions with his input as an advocate for indigenous peoples rights.
Solidarity programs at the peasant camp in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform offices at the Elliptical Road also highlighted this year’s IP Day celebrations in Baguio City. (Bulatlat.com)