The Mindanao Lumad Alliance, Kalumaran, urges Aquino to “put an end to the killings, abuses, and military recruitment of Lumad paramilitaries in our communities that failed to bring peace and development” as it called to “stop this deception that mines, dams, and agribusiness will bring in development.”
By DANILDA L. FUSILERO
KIDAPAWAN CITY, North Cotabato, Philippines — August 9 marks United Nations (UN) Declaration of the World Indigenous Peoples’ Day, but Lumad groups said their communities are threatened with displacement due to ‘development’ projects and military operations.
“This situation cuts across almost all IP communities,” said Bai Norma Capuyan, a Manobo from North Cotabato and leader of Apo Sandawa Lumadnong Panaghiusa sa Cotabato (ASLPC).
She added, lumads suffer the most from these perennial problems caused by the “government’s apathy, negligence and arrogance.”
Thursday marks the Declaration’s 18th year which was first proclaimed by the UN’s General Assembly in 1994 mandating nations to “protect and uphold the rights of indigenous peoples particularly on economic, political and cultural rights.”
ASLPC said that indigenous communities are the usual target of military operations to pave the way for what they call “culturally-insensitive” development projects of big corporations.
Based on ASLPC’s records, upland villages in the towns of Magpet, Arakan and Tulunan, which are territories of the Manobo, Bawa-Bagobo, Arumanen, and Blaan tribes are targeted for big agri-business projects.
“The government, aided by military operations, is forcing the entry of these big projects in our ancestral lands,” Capuyan said.
Marcelo Lintad of the Nagkahiusang Katawhang Talaingod sa Antipas said that the Manobos are in the brink of displacement after a Community-based Forestry Management (CBFM) was forcibly implemented inside their claimed ancestral domain in Pontevedra village, Antipas town.
Lintad said the town mayor has mobilized the military to escort Visayan settlers to implement the forestation program.
“They are supported by our Mayor and they have military escorts in planting the trees,” Lintad, a Manobo, said.
He added that a detachment of the Philippine Army’s 57th Infantry Battalion was forcibly built inside their claimed ancestral domain.
Leaders of the Manobo-Arumanen Fasakaday Association hinted that the 57th IB is backing-up the operations of armed bonnet-wearing persons roaming their villages during nighttime in search of residents suspected to be supportive of the NPAs.
Mafa spokesperson Mercedita Ali said a fact-finding mission in the villages in Magpet town showed women and children affected by military operations, which intensified following a clash with NPA guerrillas.
“Pregnant women and those who have small children suffer the most in times of armed clashes,” she said.
Other indigenous communities in North Cotabato face several threats, such as Blaans in Tulunan town’s Bacung village, who protest the conversion of their 4,819-hectare ancestral land into rubber and napier grass plantations.
Meanwhile, the remaining ancestral lands of the Manobo and Arumanen tribes in the towns of Matalam, Carmen and Kabacan are set up for oil palm plantation.
ASLPC is wary that mining explorations will be “resurrected” in the ancestral lands in Magpet, Roxas and Arakan following the approval of President Noynoy Aquino’s Executive Order 79.
EO 79 sets the administration’s new mining policies, which, environmental advocates say, only strengthen the Mining Act of 1995 that gives power to “destructive and large-scale and foreign mining companies.”
“At the expense of the lumads, the Aquino government is dead serious in pushing a development that we hardly even understand,” Capuyan said.
Other ‘development’ projects include the MegaDam5 in Lama-lama village in President Roxas town and the drilling of the third well in Mt. Apo Natural Park by the Lopez-owned Energy Development Corporation.
Both projects aimed to respond to the reported power shortages in Mindanao but ASLPC has expressed opposition to these for encroaching on their territories.
In a separate statement, Dulphing Ogan, secretary general of the Mindanao Alliance Kalumaran, urged President Aquino to “put an end to the killings, abuses, and military recruitment of Lumad paramilitaries in our communities that failed to bring peace and development” as he called to “stop this deception that mines, dams, and agribusiness will bring in development.”
They also said Aquino must take decisive steps to protect the country’s patrimony and environment as “it is a source and sustenance of life.”