DAVAO CITY – For the first time, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Gina Lopez visited the temporary shelter of indigenous people’s evacuees inside the United Church of Christ in the Philippines Haran compound in Father Selga street here on Friday afternoon, August 5.
“I’ve never visited a place like this. They shouldn’t be here,” Lopez said, adding that the place is “cruel” for the indigenous peoples.
“If I live in a forest all my life, living here with pollution, my heart will die, my soul will die,” she said.
Lopez, who spoke to former Mines and Geoscience Bureau, Leo Jasareno, on the phone, said that the government should apologize to the Lumads who evacuated from their communities in Kapalong and Talaingod towns in Davao del Norte and in Bukidnon province.
“We will give them back their lands and apologize ten thousand times for having allowed this to happen to them,” Lopez told Jasareno on the phone in the presence of Lumad leaders.
Some 336 Lumad people are staying in the evacuation center for a year and four months already since they evacuated last year.
“I’m making a commitment I talked to my EMB head and in the law, I can actually cancel whatever mining permit is there which is done in the ancestral lands. In that case the military should not be there and in that case by first week of September or earlier, we should bring them back,” Lopez said.
Lopez also committed to coordinate with other government agencies to assist the evacuees with agriculture, health and education services. (davaotoday.com)