The 18 ethno-linguistic tribes of the island together with other support groups have converged to hold the government of Noynoy Aquino accountable for the destruction of the IPs’ ancestral lands and the many cases of rights abuses against the peasant and lumad communities including extrajudicial killings.
By GILBERT L. PACIFICAR
BUTUAN CITY, Philippines — It was not a case of miting de avance or campaign rally. About ten thousand people who literally filled this city’s Guingona Park were up, they said, for a heavier, much larger cause.
“Naa mi diri karon gikan pa sa among tagsa-tagsa ka komunidad aron ipaabot sa gobyernong Aquino ang among kasuko ug pagbabag sa mga kontra-lumad nga proyekto nga iyang gipasulod sa among lugar (We came from our respective communities to express our outrage and our strong opposition against the anti-lumad projects that the Aquino government has allowed in our areas),” said Zenaida Bautista from the Mamanwa tribe of Surigao del Norte.
Baustista’s among the thousands of protesters who came from the five regions of Mindanao to celebrate Earth Day on Monday. It was organized by the federation of Lumad organizations in the island, the Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad sa Mindanao (Kalumaran), Katribu Party-list and the umbrella organization Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in the Caraga Region.
She said that their presence have signified further what they’ve been rallying against for the past years, the large-scale mining operations owned by multi-national companies, especially in Caraga region.
Caraga, she noted, is home to a number of foreign-owned large-scale mining companies that have been engaging in direct shipping operations of nickel ore for export in China and other countries.
Nevermind the scorching heat of the sun. The 18 ethno-linguistic tribes of the island together with other support groups have converged here to hold the government of Noynoy Aquino accountable for the destruction of the IPs’ ancestral lands and the many cases of rights abuses against the peasant and lumad communities including extrajudicial killings.
Since 2010 when Aquino came to power, more than 20 IP leaders have been killed, according to environmental group Panalipdan.
Genasque Enriquez, second nominee of Katribu and also secretary-general of Kalumaran, said that aside from several large-scale mining companies, the government is now boarding on the opening of mega dams to produce more power supposedly for the island’s electricity needs.
Many parts of the island have been experiencing daily power interruptions despite the existence of the Agus-Pulangi hydro complex, the Mt. Apo geothermal plants and diesel-powered barges.
Enriquez said there are four mega dams to be constructed in Mindanao. But they are also up against this plan because, among other things, it would displace thousands of lumads from their homes and livelihood.
“The Private-Public Partnership policy of Aquino government simply means the selling of our natural resources to foreign capitalists,” Enriquez who hails from the Manobo tribe in Surigao del Sur said.
He also scored the ongoing “militarization” in the hinterlands of Caraga region which, he said, resulted to the massive displacement of IP communities and human rights violations allegedly perpetrated by government troops, particularly the military and its paramilitary groups.
Meanwhile, Gabriela Representative Luzviminda Ilagan criticized the Aquino government for its policies on mining, particularly Aquino’s Executive Order 79.
She said the policy “further aggravated the impact of Philippine Mining act of 1995 to exploit more natural resources in Mindanao.” She added it pushed more and more IP women and children to become victims of militarization.
She also scored the government for prioritizing the military when it comes to budget allocation instead of putting more premiums to basic social services like health and education. She said that the military has killing lumads who are opposing large-scale mining operations and agri-business plantations.
As thousands gathered here, Beverly Longid, Katribu’s first nominee called for unity in strengthening “the campaign against environment plunder and militarization.”
“Our mass movement will define our path in defending our ancestral domain and uphold the right to self-determination. We must intensify our call that land is our life,” she said. (Gilbert L. Pacificar/davaotoday.com)Bayan, Caraga Region, Gabriela, Kalumaran, katribu, large-scale mining