Some thousands of indigenous people all over the Philippines, especially in Mindanao, especially the Subaanen people, on the Zamboanga Peninsula have struggle for years to stop mining corporations from moving in to explore and mine the mountains and hills. They are victims of corrupt government officials and even judges who are captivated by the vested interest of the mining industry.
Some Indigenous people are sadly being forced to turn to armed resistance as the mining corporations move into their lands. The Subaanen people have remained steadfastly non-violent and turned to the rule of law and trust in the constitution to protect them and their rights. But is it enough?
Hundreds of thousands of hectares of ancestral land has been threatened by the illegal and corrupt acts of some officials of the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Allegedly some of these officials are not on the side of the people in Mindanao but are for the rich and powerful mining interests and the banks that fund them.
In Opol, province of Misamis Oriental in Southern Philippines, the ancestral lands of the indigenous Higaonon tribe have been forcibly taken away by a palm oil plantation owned by A Brown Company, and that they have suffered harassment and violence in the hands of this company and several conniving local government officials.
According to the Higaonons of Barangays Bagocboc and Tingalan in Opol, they have been occupying the contested lands since pre-Spanish colonisation era where their ancestors hunted animals, gathered honey and maintained small portions of land for agriculture. As an indigenous group, their ancestors practiced their unique culture and carried out rituals in certain areas they consider sacred.
However, the indigenous lifestyle started to deteriorate and human rights violations to strive in the 1950s when the Higaonons were displaced from their lands to make way for logging and grazing ventures of landlords. Still, the indigenous tribe kept coming back to their lands, making them productive. In 2010, A Brown, with the help of certain government officials, entered their 520-hectare land and started planting palm oil without acquiring the Higaonons’ free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). Several farmers were shot at and arrested, and many continue to be subjected to various human rights violations to this day.
Under the MOA, the parties involved will follow the operational policies and jointly act upon steps such as coordination and cooperation, transparency and integrity, conflict resolution and the time table for the completion of the program.
The agreement also stipulates the responsibilities of each party. NCIP will assist and guide the Remontado/Dumagat communities in processing the CADT, inform the city government and the Remontado/Dumagat communities of the target dates set for completion, inform the city government on the finances involved in the program, and prepare the amount of P155,650 as listed under the work and financial plan (WFP).
This may not be totally Philippine IP-related, indigenous peoples are the most greatly affected populations by climate change, the so-called “green economy” (which is bullshit in my opinion), and further exploitation by greedy capitalists. Furthermore, indigenous women and children are the most affected in this group. Hundreds have been tortured and killed by state military groups, corporate mercenaries, etc. and IPs have also been called ‘terrorists’ for defending their homes. This is an outright violation of their basic human right to live and right to self-determination, which concerns the individual, not the state or the government. Their lives are hanging in the balance and we who can help them, must fight with them.
In the Kari Oca II Declaration, an updated and more modern version of the Kari Oca Declaration which was part of the Rio 1992 conference, indigenous peoples from all over the world, including the IPs from the Philippines, call on everyone to defend their right to self-determination and to look to traditional ways of progress.
The last sentence of the declaration says that “We walk in the footsteps of our ancestors.” I believe we have walked too far from ours. It’s time for solidarity, and it’s time to face the struggle for justice, not just for indigenous peoples, but the entire order of the universe itself.
The Kari Oca II Declaration can be downloaded here; learn what the voices of the mountains and the seas are singing about.
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