‘Lumad’ leaders deliver own Sona


By Ryan Rosauro
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:20:00 08/02/2008

WE ARE HUNGRIER NOW. WE ARE POORER.” This, according to leaders of “lumad” communities, is the state of indigenous peoples in Mindanao.

In a “State of the Indigenous Peoples’ Address” (Sipa) on Monday, they assailed President Macapagal-Arroyo and the government for turning a blind eye on the concerns of the country’s indigenous peoples. Her State of the Nation Address (Sona), while not missing mention of the “lumad”, treats them “passively,” they said.

The annual Sona spells out the Arroyo administration’s priority concerns for the coming year.

“We listened and watched with disbelief as the images we saw and the statements made by (Ms) Arroyo were a far cry from our reality—that of increased poverty, worsened hunger and further marginalization,” the Sipa stated. “Instead, she has only exaggerated the benefits of one, which obviously does not represent the true circumstances of all.”

Some 140 “lumad” leaders from all over Mindanao gathered in Davao City for three days to discuss their common plight and craft strategies on how to advance their struggle for recognition of indigenous rights.

CADT issuance

The last time Ms Arroyo spoke about the “lumad” people was in 2001, when she vowed to distribute 100 certificates of ancestral domain titles (CADTs) every year. A CADT signifies the grant by the government of a secure tenure to indigenous groups over specific land areas proven to relate to their ancestry.

But data from a nongovernment group, Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan (LRC-KsK), revealed that for the past seven years, only 71 CADTs had been issued by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP). Of these, eight are ancestral domain claims in Mindanao.

This means that the CADT issuance performance is short by 29 for a year’s target alone.

Judith Pamela Pasimio, LRC-KsK executive director, said that since the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (Ipra) was enacted in 1997, only 25 percent of the total CADT applications had resulted in awards.

Tenement rights

The “lumad” leaders were worried that the government could be disfavoring the fast-tracked tenurial security grant over their ancestral domain claims to favor the tenements applications of foreign mining companies.

Since assuming power in 2001, Ms Arroyo has advocated the entry of foreign capital into the minerals production sector as a principal strategy for pushing economic growth.

The LRC-KsK noted that as of December 2007, the government granted a total of 240 tenement rights to various mining companies, 60 percent of which were within ancestral domains.

Timuay Noval Lambo, a Subanen leader in the Zamboanga Peninsula, criticized the Arroyo administration for hyping about environmentally sound and “lumad”-friendly mining operations. “I cannot believe that’s happening with the current crop of miners we have,” he said.

Last month, in a series of consultations among “lumad” leaders throughout the country, the Irish Center for Human Rights found at least 40 cases of violations of the United Nations protocols against discrimination against indigenous peoples.

Cathal Boyle, who represented the center in the meetings, noted acts of racial discrimination by way of government policies that disfavored the indigenous peoples.

Of the 40 documented cases, the bulk were related to large-scale corporate mining projects within ancestral domains. A serious violation related to “short-circuiting” the process of seeking consent for mining projects.

Displacement

“Lumad” people also feared being displaced as a result of expanding crop plantations and increasing projects within their land, the Sipa said. It took issue of the declaration of portions of their lands into environmentally protected areas which limited their use of natural resource for their survival.

“The small lands we till for vegetables, corn and other root crops for our food are threatened with conversion to dams, mine sites and energy plants. The entry of plantations, timber license agreements and mining mean the loss of our sustainable livelihood practices,” the Sipa read.

“Our rights to self-determination and to self-governance are continuously violated. The government and private corporations interested in our lands have connived to employ tactics to undermine our traditional processes and customary laws,” it added.

The government’s intensified campaign against communist insurgents in the countryside is hampering the lives of many “lumad” people, the document said. It pointed out that a number of “lumad” leaders had become victims of summary killings, while others were forced to join paramilitary forces.

Many families have to evacuate to avoid getting caught in the crossfire of armed clashes, it said.

Given their plight, the “lumad” leaders pushed for the speedy issuance of CADTs as a cornerstone step to secure tenure over indigenous peoples’ lands. They also urged reforms in the country’s political administration.

“The governance of the nation should be more decentralized, inclusive and cognizant of the different systems of governance particularly in indigenous communities and territories,” the Sipa said.

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