‘Masbate has no national minorities but its people share with them the same problems of landlessness, militarization, and harsh impact of mining operations.’
By MARYA SALAMAT
Members of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Masbate welcomed today, August 26, the arrival in Bicol of the delegates of national minorities from Mindanao.
Grouped under Sandugo, an alliance of national minorities and the bangsamoro, they are part of the Lakbayan 2017 or “Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya Para sa Sariling Pagpapasya at Makatarungang Kapayapaan.” As early as August 21, they have set out on a journey from military checkpoint-heavy towns of Mindanao to Cebu and now to Masbate. They are heading to an almost month-long camp out and campaigns in Metro Manila.
In the north of Manila other groups of national minorities are bound to converge also in a series of “salubungan” or group meet ups. The Sandugo delegates plan to reach Metro Manila for the biggest salubungan in the capital of all delegates to the Lakbayan on August 31.
A journey to drumbeat the national minorities’ right to self-determination
“Advance our right to self-determination and peace based on justice.” A repeated chanting of this greeted the Sandugo members from Mindanao as they arrived in Masbate on August 26. Ben Cajegas, the spokesperson of BAYAN-Masbate, announced that a historic Salubungan and program will be held at the Freedom Park in Masbate City.
Cajegas said that even though their province doesn’t have national minorities, they share the same problems of members of the national minorities.
“Much of Masbate’s peasants remain poor no matter how hard they work because they are land less. A big chunk of Masbate’s land is fenced off as pastureland and claimed by a few people or families with government positions,” Cajegas said. He told the Sandugo delegates that like many of them, they also ‘host’ in Masbate foreign mining companies such as the Filmenera Mining Corp.
As the Lakbayan 2017 delegates hold a series of salubungan at their pit stops, they steadily grow in number the more they near Metro Manila. In Cebu where they arrived on August 22 to 23 from Mindanao, they marched and held a rally in front of the police station in Cebu where police chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa was scheduled to visit.
Lakbayan according to Sandugo is one way the national minorities assert their right to self-determination and oppose the US-Duterte’s intensified attacks on the communities of Moro and national minorities.