Uphold Indigenous Peoples' Rights, Stop Development Aggression!
While the world commemorates the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Filipino people, especially the Indigenous Peoples and the rural poor have yet to realize their worth as humans as the Arroyo administration continues to trample on their fundamental rights.
Indigenous communities, despite the promises of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) remain largely neglected, underserved and undeveloped. Worse, their communities continue to become an arena of conflict as they assert their legitimate rights to their ancestral domains against government-sanctioned encroachment by large-scale mining interests, agro-industrial plantations and other "development" projects. Worse still, their defense of their rights and life are costing them dearly in terms of lives lost and rights violated.
Under Arroyo's mining revitalization campaign, which government views as a shield from the global financial crisis, the indigenous peoples and the rural poor can expect even less in the preservation of their communities, the environment and their culture. The indigenous communities of Bgy. Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Viscaya and of Tagmamarkay, Tubay, Agusan Del Norte, forcibly evicted from their homes to make way for mining projects, are currently locked in an uphill struggle to reclaim their territory and dignity. The communities in Ned, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato continue to live in constant fear of impending dislocation in favor of the Daguma Coal Mining Project.
The Arroyo government's policy of aggressive promotion of agro-industrial plantations, which favors land-use conversions over distribution of ancestral domain titles would mean more indigenous peoples displaced and economically dislocated. The T'bolis of the communities in Bgy. Ned, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato remained fearful that one day, they may lose what remains of their territory to the continuing encroachment of Dawang Coffee Plantation of the Consunjis.
With the growing opposition against development aggression from indigenous communities, the Arroyo government, in a characteristic show of bias for private business over community interests plan the immediate formation of the Investment Defense Force for the protection of foreign investments in the face of rising community resistance. It has also backed the creation of the Mindanao Indigenous Peoples Council for Peace and Development (MIPCPD) and its armed group Task Force Gantangan (TFG), seeking to drive a wedge among between indigenous groups and between the IPs and their support groups.
With the Arroyo government's iron-hand policy in crushing legitimate resistance, it has failed miserably in its responsibility to protect people's lives and uphold basic rights and freedoms. Massive militarization in indigenous communities resulted in a string of human rights abuses - torture, killing, forced displacement of entire communities, among them. The culture of impunity goes unchecked, targetting not only IP leaders but even support groups and individuals.
Renewing our continuing commitment and solidarity to the struggle of the indigenous peoples and the rural communities, the women and men of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan/ Friends of the Earth-Philippines (LRC-KsK/FoE- Phils.) today, call on the government to seriously address the worsening state of human rights in indigenous peoples communities and bring to court and punish the perpetrators of human rights violations.
We reiterate our call for an immediate stop to development aggression - large scale mining, agro-plantations and other big business interests that have caused community division, strings of human rights abuses, harassment and killing, and irreparable damage to the environment.
We join the rest of human rights advocates and defenders of the world in commemorating this day, even as we pledge our faith in the genuine movement of peoples towards the realization of a just and humane society.
From the women and men of:
LEGAL RIGHTS and NATURAL RESOURCES CENTER - KASAMA SA KALIKASAN
(LRC-KsK/Friends of the Earth-Philippines)
Davao Regional Office
Reference: Ms. Jean Marie Ferraris, Team Leader
Erwin B. Quiñones, Law Paralegal