Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. V,    No. 15      May 22- 28, 2005      Quezon City, Philippines











Web Bulatlat


(We encourage readers to dialogue with us. Email us your letters complaints, corrections, clarifications, etc.)

Join Bulatlat's mailing list



(Email us your letters statements, press releases,  manifestos, etc.)



For turning the screws on hot issues, Bulatlat has been awarded the Golden Tornillo Award.

Iskandalo Cafe


Copyright 2004 Bulatlat



Thriving Valley Hit by Humanitarian Crisis

For several years, Manobo villagers of Andap Valley had been living in peace with livelihood projects until government troops swooped down into their communities in hot pursuit, they said, of NPA guerrillas.

By Tyrone Velez

ANDAP VALLEY, Surigao del Sur - Jenasque Enriquez, a Manobo tribal leader, voiced the question of his townsfolk who wondered why the military would disturb their peace.

For the past decade, the lumads in Andap
Valley strove to rise from the militarization that ravaged their villages in the 1980s.  In mid-1990's the Manobos from Lianga, San Agustin and Marihatag bonded in an organization called MAPASU or Malungtaron Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (Protracted Struggle for the Next Generation) to launch livelihood and literacy projects.

The past decade saw the rise of nine literacy schools, and some cooperatives. This was done with the assistance of the Diocese of Tandag and later with the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS).

An agricultural demonstration farm was built in Han-ayan, Diatagon, Lianga while the Lumad Schools won the Caraga Literacy Awards and is now the official entry for the National Literacy Award.

Surigao del Sur remains among the poorest of the four provinces of Caraga region. Ironically, the people continue to live in dire poverty when the area is supposed to be lying on rich forest and mineral resources.

At its peak, there were said to be six big logging concessionaires operating in the whole province, including SUDECOR of the Puyat Family, and the PICOP Resources Inc. (PRI) and ARTIMCO. Presently it seems current applications are largely related to mining.

Human rights advocates believe that more than hunting for NPA guerrillas, the military operations had something to do with the rich gold, coal, iron and chromite deposits in the area which remain as the top targets for exploration and extraction that are now up for grabs from various local and multinational business operations.  A coal mining exploration by Benguet Mining Corporation was also made in the 1980's.

Humanitarian crisis

The situation at the evacuation center and reports on human rights violations escalating by the day have prompted human rights advocates in Caraga region to call it a "humanitarian crisis." However, Maj. Alexis Bravo, spokesperson of the Army's 4th Infantry Division, dismissed the claim as "exaggerated."

Nevertheless, human rights group Karapatan continued reporting human rights violations as two battalions of Philippine Army troopers belonging to 58th IBPA and 6th Scout Rangers and members of the striking force of the 402nd continued their military operations in the area.

Denying Karapatan's reportage the military has insisted, to quote the spokesperson of the Army's 4th Infantry Division Maj. Alexis Bravo, they have “safeguarded” the civilians in the area.

Human rights activists in the area however have called it outrageous when Southern Command Chief Lt. Gen. Alberto Braganza told reporters "relentless efforts" had been implemented against “communist rebels” in the towns of Surigao del Sur. The victims of the military were innocent farmers, mostly belonging to the indigenous Manobo tribe inhabiting the area, the rights activists said.

The crisis prompted the holding of a dialogue with Surigao del Sur Gov. Vicente Pimentel on May 17. Pimentel assured the residents they can return to their homes, and consented to their demands that government troops should leave their villages at once.

On May 21, the Manigaons (tribal chieftains) issued a statement demanding the withdrawal of all government forces in their communities, the release of the four missing farmers from Makahunao, San Agustin, and the payment of all damages and loss of properties. Bulatlat

Troops Force Manobos To Flee Andap Valley (First of two parts)
Photo Essay: Suffer Thy Children



© 2004 Bulatlat  Alipato Publications

Permission is granted to reprint or redistribute this article, provided its author/s and Bulatlat are properly credited and notified.