MAC: Mines and Communities

Philippines: Charter change might lead to more abuses of indigenous peoples’ rights – Amnesty

Published by MAC on 2009-06-08

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines - Amnesty International expressed alarm that the planned charter change to open up the economy to more foreign investors might lead to further abuses of indigenous peoples.

In a forum at Ateneo de Zamboanga University, Amnesty International Director Dr. Aurora Corazon Parong said, "The indigenous peoples are already marginalized with very inadequate social services and struggling against incursion of government projects and mining operations in their lands without their free, prior informed consent (FPIC). Almost all ancestral domains are being targeted for mining explorations and operations due to the government's open policy for mining corporations. If more foreign corporations that do not respect the rights of indigenous peoples enter the country, the indigenous peoples will be pushed to greater poverty."

The House of Representatives just passed last night House Resolution 1109 that it can convene itself as a constituent assembly for Charter change, even without the Senate.

Billions of people are suffering from insecurity, injustice and indignity in the world especially with the economic recession, Amnesty International said when it presented the Amnesty International Report 2009: State of the World's Human Rights, in a forum at the Ateneo de Zamboanga University. It reported about shortages of food, jobs, clean water, land and housing, and also about deprivation and discrimination, growing inequality, violence and repression across the world.

"In the Philippines, people suffer from deprivation of basic needs like food, housing, just wages and decent jobs. People are excluded from participating in decisions affecting their lives. Their voices are not heard and in many cases, often suppressed," said Dr. Aurora Corazon A. Parong, Director of Amnesty International Philippines.

Dr. Parong added, "The looming human rights crisis in the world, which also affects the Philippines in more ways than one, undermines the rights of people, especially the poor and indigenous peoples. Indigenous peoples remain invisible in national data and statistics. This situation makes it very difficult to complain about their miserable conditions."

The report dealt with the indigenous peoples (IPs) continued struggle for land rights as the government failed to comply with its obligation to obtain IPs' free, prior and informed consent to development plans, including mining operations, in their traditional territories.

Video clips titled "Voices of Indigenous Peoples" shown during the forum depicted the problems and difficulties of Kankanaeys and Ifugaos in Nueva Vizcaya in Luzon and the Mamanwas in Mindanao who are discriminated upon in the schools, ridiculed and having inadequate or no access to medicines and hospitals. The poverty in their communities were shown despite the reported growth and development in the country in 2008.

In the video, an Ifugao from Nueva Vizcaya spoke about the problems brought about by mining operations in their community such as destruction of their rice fields and sources of water and livelihood.

In Zamboanga, indigenous peoples' communities are also disturbed by mining operations. The Subanens of Siocon have complained about the entry of mining companies in their lands despite absence of free, prior and informed consent. A complaint was filed in 2007 at the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and the Subanens are waiting for the conclusion of the UN body.

"Protecting the rights of the Indigenous Peoples (IPs) is not an option, it is an essential piece of any solution to the violations of the rights of indigenous peoples. Amnesty International worldwide is proposing a solution that aims to demand the leadership, accountability and transparency that are essential to end the human rights abuses that keep people poor, including the indigenous peoples in Zamboanga and other parts of the Philippines", explained the director.

"Solutions to global problems must integrate global values of human rights - and those at the top table of world leadership, including the leaders of the Philippines, must begin by setting an example," concluded Dr. Parong.

Amnesty International's Demand Dignity campaign aims to end global poverty by working to strengthen recognition and protection of the human rights of the poor, including the indigenous peoples.

Amnesty International is a grassroots organization with 2.2million members in more than 100 countries worldwide. It won the Nobel Peace Award for its human rights work. It is a non political and non-partisan organization.

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