MANILA — A Kalinga tribe has brought their case against a mining company before the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples (UNSRRIP) – one of the many cases that deluged Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the newly-appointed Special Rapporteur.
Speaking at the national consultation with the UNSRRIP, Alex Lingbawan, an indigenous farmer from the Guinaang tribe in Kalinga province, lamented that the Makilala Mining Company Inc. has succeeded in clinching a dubious Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for gold exploration in their ancestral domain, on August 7, just a day before the consultation with the UNSRRIP.
“Guinaang is not for sale,” Lingbawan said, and for months, his tribe had insisted that they do not want large-scale mining in their tribal communities. Earlier, on June 23, they had stopped a bogus MOA-signing at a general assembly called by the company and the provincial National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) in Kalinga. “Yesterday, they still forced the MOA-signing,” he lamented.
Lingbawan also reported before the UNSRRIP that two Guinaang village leaders were harassed by a suspected military agent, during the August 7 MOA-signing between the company and tribal elders selected by the NCIP-Kalinga.
Tauli-Corpuz, a native Kankanaey of Cordillera and former chair of the UN Forum on Indigenous Issues, initiated the national consultation with various IP groups at the Sulo Riviera Hotel in Quezon City on August 8, in time for the commemoration of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples today. She received the documents from Lingbawan as well as from other IP groups lamenting violations of their rights to ancestral domain and self-determination.
The consultation served as a venue for the UN official to lay out her priorities as special rapporteur, and also to spur cooperation and communication between IP groups, government agencies, NGOs, the academe and other concerned sectors. It was attended by representatives of various indigenous peoples groups, government agencies, the academe, World Bank, foreign dignitaries, other UN officials.
Lingbawan, a leader of the Indigenous Farmers’ Association of Guinaang, Pasil Inc. (IFAGPI), said that the NCIP-Kalinga has ignored the petition and protest by the Guinaang tribes from the six villages of Pasil against the entry of the Makilala Mining Company.
In their petition, signed by some 700 members of the Guinaang tribe, they said that their farms, irrigation system, forest and fishing area are threatened by the large-scale mining company. They cited mining disasters in the Cordillera, such as that of Philex and Lepanto, in which mine tailings destroyed the environment and people’s livelihood.
“Despite our protest and submission of manifesto to the provincial government and the NCIP-Kalinga, they pushed through with the FPIC,” Lingbawan said at the UNSRRIP consultation. He said that in November 2013, the company and the NCIP tried to force the process for a free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) but failed, after not getting any signatures from the Guinaang Poblacion village. But days later, an FPIC was presented. Lingbawan said it was signed only by elders selected by the NCIP and even by people who were not from Guinaang.
The Indigenous Peoples Rights’ Act (IPRA) requires an FPIC before any activity or project can be conducted in the ancestral territories.
Lingbawan said that during the Aug. 7 MOA signing, a suspected military intelligence agent cornered Leonardo Banatao and Venicio Abacan, both village councillors of Guinaan Poblacion proper, and threatened that they will be “salvaged” if they did not sign the MOA. “Salvage” is a Martial Law-era term for summary execution. The two councillors, however, refused to sign the MOA. Lingbawan said the mining company also tried to bribe a council elder named Quirino Dugayon.
Lingbawan said the exploration by the Makilala Mining Company will cover 3,159 hectares of ancestral domain in the whole of Guinaang, and threatens the Tabia and Pasil rivers. The Guinaang tribe compose the population in the six villages of Guinaang, Dangtalan, Pugong, Malucsad, Galdang and Bagtayan.
Also yesterday, Aug. 8, Guinaang leaders submitted to the NCIP central office a petition and a manifesto cum resolution of “non-consent” on the entry of Makilala Mining Company in the communities. They had already submitted the same manifesto to NCIP-Kalinga provincial director Natividad Suguiyao on Dec. 28, 2013.
In their manifesto, the Guinaang tribe said the provincial NCIP “handpicked” elders from five of the six barangays and created a new council of elders so it could push through with the FPIC for the mining proponent’s application.
The manifesto said the provincial NCIP’s action “is creating disharmony, conflict and tensions among the tribe, and is challenging the very traditions which this tribe had lived by.”
“The Guinaang tribe demands that their deeply enshrined customs and traditions be respected, and also their choice to conserve, maintain and manage their pristine natural resources,” the manifesto read.
Piya Macliing Malayao, spokesperson for the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP), said indigenous peoples continue to be discriminated against, culturally and economically, as the Aquino administration continues to push for the economic policies of deregulation, liberalization, and privatization which “have dispossessed and uprooted indigenous peoples from their ancestral territories in favor of profits for local and foreign big businesses.”
“More than 100,000 indigenous peoples from 39 tribal groups all over the country will be dislocated or will lose their livelihood as an effect of the all-out mining liberalization under Aquino,” KAMP said in a statement. “Even more indigenous communities will be displaced in energy, water, and plantation projects under the Public-Private Partnership program.”
Malayao said among these are the three projects that President Aquino touted in his State of the Nation Address: the Kaliwa Dam, the Jalaur Mega Dam, and the Clark Green City, which will adversely affect some 30,000 indigenous peoples.
NCIP executive director Marlea Muñez noted that none of those three projects had acquired the FPIC of the affected indigenous peoples. “Although these have been mentioned by the President, these still have no FPIC.”
Among those who attended the national consultation was a Tumandok from Panay island who said they are protesting the Jalaur Megadam which will displace up to 17,000 Tumandoks from their ancestral lands. The megadam is being constructed on top of a fault line, which poses an even bigger disaster in case of an earthquake.
Malayao said that to defend their ancestral domains, indigenous peoples have pursued legal, extralegal and even armed struggle. Due to this, indigenous peoples have become targets of Aquino’s counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, “as they resist massive dislocation and environmental destruction of their ancestral lands.” She noted that 43 indigenous peoples – six of them, children – have been killed from June 2010 up to the present.
Lawyer Fatima Irene Adin-Purisima of the National Union for People’s Lawyers (NUPL), meanwhile noted that the militarization in the IP communities had resulted to forced evacuation. Some 1,300 Talaingods were forced to evacuate to Davao City in March to evade massive military operations. She said that in a dialogue, the local government of Davao del Norte refused to call for a pullout of military troops, which they said were conducting “peace and development” efforts to counter the presence of the New People’s Army (NPA).
Purisima however said many Talaingod leaders and residents have been branded as “NPAs” and have been subjected to harassment.
In response, Army Maj. Ruben Guinolbay, of the Armed Forces of the Philippines indigenous peoples desk, asked about the particulars of the cases of human rights violations, and said that the AFP is open to receive complaints about them. Guinolbay, a native Cordilleran, said the AFP has began studying the culture of indigenous peoples to better relate with them.
‘Victims of peace’
Lumads in the proposed Bangsamoro entity decried that they have been ignored in the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and in the resulting Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB).
“The victims of war are now the victims of peace,” said Datu Roldan Babelon, a leader of the Erumanen ne Menuvu Indigenous Political Structure in North Cotabato. He said the Lumads have been excluded in the drafting of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) although it will span over their ancestral territories.
He said there are 13 ethnic groups in the proposed Bangsamoro territory, among them the Lumad groups of Teduray, Lambangian, Higaonon, Dulungan, and the Erumane ne Menuvu whose ancestral domains are in south central Mindanao, Southern Bukidnon and North Cotabato.
Babelon jokingly said that a single letter, the letter “s” had caused a big problem because the MILF and the government refused to add “s” in the use of the term “Bangsamoro people” in the FAB and in the proposed BBL. But it’s a serious matter because the documents then refers exclusively to the Moro people, and disregards the non-Moro indigenous peoples in the proposed entity.
“We will be losing our ancestral domains, our indigenous peoples governance, and our identity,” said Babelon.
Tauli-Corpuz said that among the government agencies, she looked forward to working with the NCIP, which has been the subject of many complaints by indigenous groups.
On the part of the NCIP, Director Muñez admitted that some NCIP officials have engaged in scrupulous dealings with private companies in conducting the FPIC process. She said that so far, nine NCIP officials have been dismissed from office, but some have appealed to the Civil Service Commission.
Muñez noted that they proposed a bigger budget to cover expenses in conducting FPIC consultations, but it was turned down by the Department of Budget and Management. She said the funds would help make the FPIC process independent as the NCIP would not have to depend on the project proponent.
A former forester of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Muñez said that as NCIP director, she does not participate in conducting FPIC. She encouraged the indigenous peoples to submit complaints to help make the process work in their favour.
The special rapporteur said that part of her job is to also look into the best practices of indigenous peoples. Among those who reported at the consultation were indigenous peoples who had successfully created 3-D maps of their ancestral lands, set up schools for indigenous children, held solidarity activities with other indigenous peoples in the country and improved collective efforts to protect and nourish the environment in their territories.
“We cannot be all gloom and doom always. We have survived for hundreds of years of discrimination and oppression and we are still here,” Tauli-Corpuz said. “We have the resources, we live in the most conserved environment, and we did not squander these resources. If our rights are respected, we will contribute to making the Philippines a sustainable country.”
“We have survived years of repression, of colonization, but we still have communities that are very strong,” Tauli-Corpuz said.
For the part of the Guinaang tribe, Lingbawan said, like the other indigenous peoples groups in the consultation, they are not giving up their fight against the Makilala Mining Company and will question the MOA. (bulatlat.com)