The call to scrap Ipra is more resonant than ever, indigenous peoples say.
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Indigenous peoples led by the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Kamp) protested today, Oct. 29, at the office of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) in Quezon City, and called for the scrapping of the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (Ipra) and the abolition of the NCIP, its implementing agency.
Protesters said the Ipra, which was signed into law on Oct. 29, 1997, “worsened the historical injustice committed against indigenous peoples.”
“The IPRA neither protects nor defends the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands and self-determination,” said the Kamp in a statement that was signed by eight indigenous peoples’ groups.
“It is a tool of the State, deceptive and lethal, for plunder and exploitation of indigenous peoples’ territories that serves the interests of the ruling elite and its imperialist masters,” Kamp said.
Kamp said Ipra “eased and legalized the plunder and ancestral land-grabbing of capitalist corporations” by issuing Certificates of Ancestral Land Titles and Certificates of Ancestral Domain Titles (Calts, Cadts).
“Formerly communally-held lands are awarded to a few favored people, making our ancestral lands easily disposed of or sold to corporate interests. Ancestral land titling provided by the IPRA destroys the indigenous concept of communal ownership,” Kamp said.
By privatizing communal lands, the law sowed disunity and caused “the destruction of socio-political structures, and the degradation of culture.”
The NCIP, the government agency created for the implementation of Ipra, should likewise be done with, Kamp said, calling it “an effective instrument in peddling and expediting the sell-out of ancestral lands to corporate interests.”
Ipra provides for the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of the indigenous peoples as a prerequisite before the implementation of any project in the ancestral domains. However, Kamp had documented violations of this by the NCIP, the very agency which is supposed to facilitate and ensure that the participation rights of indigenous communities are respected.
“Manipulation of FPIC in mining projects such as in Bakun, Benguet in favor of the mining application of Royalco, and in Mankayan, Benguet on the expansion of Lepanto, and in big energy projects such as Chevron in Guinaang, Kalinga are a few samples of the disenfranchisement and violations of indigenous peoples rights brought on by the IPRA and the NCIP,” said Kamp.
“The NCIP has disenfranchised us indigenous peoples of our rights to ancestral lands, degraded and distorted our traditional socio-political structures, and waylaid us to worse violations of our rights,” the Kamp statement said.
Kamp cited the current construction of the Jalaur River Megadam Project in Panay island despite the resistance by the Tumadoks. The Laiban dam in the Sierra Madre range in Quezon and Rizal is also being revived, four decades after the consistent refusal of the communities of Dumagats and Remontados.
“The NCIP played no role in stopping the entry of these projects despite the clear and iterant rejection of indigenous peoples,” Kamp said.
In the Cordillera region, the CPA had reported cases of collusion between the NCIP, local government officials and private corporations which present FPICs using fake tribal leaders, or even a fake tribe, to circumvent the strong resistance against a mining or energy project.
“The genuine recognition and respect of our rights as indigenous peoples will only come from our continuing struggle for ancestral land and self-determination,” Kamp said.
The protesters were from the groups Panagkaykaysa dagiti Umili a Minorya ti Cagayan Valley (Punganay), Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), Central Luzon Ayta Association (Claa), Bigkis at Lakas ng Katutubo ng Timog Katagalugan (Balatik), Hanunuo Alangan Gubatnon Iraya Buhid Bangon Tadyawan (Hagibbat-Mangyan Mindoro), Samahan ng mga Katutubo sa Sierra Madre (SKSM), Bai Indigenous Women’s Network.