KORONADAL CITY – Instead of a festive celebration of the Indigenous People’s month, the Lumads commemorated IP month with a protest putting up a camp at the Rizal Park here coinciding with the resumption of the formal talks between the government and the National Democratic Front on Monday, August 22.
Seven indigenous peoples and Moro groups from Central Mindanao occupied the Rizal Park here to air their opposition to logging and mining operations in the region for five days.
The gathering comprised of more than 5,000 Lumads from South Cotabato, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat, General Santos City, North Cotabato, and Davao del Sur started their week-long campout on Monday, August 21. They demand to put a stop on the logging operations of David M. Consunji, Inc. (DMCI) in Sultan Kudarant, and large-scale mining of Sagittarius Mines, Inc. in Tampakan, North Cotabato, among others.
The IPs are members of Dulangan Manobo, B’laan, Tboli, Teruray, Klagan, Kaolo, and Bagobo tribes.
Samuel Galimbang, a Manobo from Sultan Kudarat said that with the logging company in their community, “our coffee crop was affected with the company, it is where the logsare
running over our crops,” he said.
Galimbang said that their water sources are also affected.
They also complained about the huge landholdings given to logging companies to avail of the IFMA or the Integrated Forest Management Agreement. The IFMA (Executive Order No. 23, s. 2011) is a contract granted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to a “qualified applicant” granting rights to develop, manage, protect, and utilized forest land.
One Lumad leader from Sultan Kudarat, John Calaba went missing, allegedly last seen at the DMCI compound in April 2015.
Calaba was known for his stance against the entry of logging and mining operations of the DMCI in Sultan Kudarat.
“This is what we protest about, we do not want the mining back in our community,” Galimbang said.
Up to now, Galimbang said that Calaba is still missing.
One of the lead groups, Kaluhhamin (Kahugpungan sa mga Lumad sa Halayong Habagatang Mindanao or United Lumads in Far Southern Mindanao), said that their protest “is a cry for land, food, justice, and peace, for the Lumads, workers, and peasants.”
The week-long protest started with a short press conference and a Sadyandi, a Lumad term which means unity pact. Representatives from the eight tribes and moro groups speak with their native language in a ceremony. (see photo)
“We were driven away from our lands. Our tribe and rich culture are threatened to extinction or ethnocide,” said Minda Dalinan, secretary general of Kaluhhamin.
Dalinan said the community of B’laan in Davao del Sur has also been targeted for the biggest mining operation in the country.
The Lumad leader claimed that “Tampakan Mining Project operated by Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) and Indophil of the Alcantara family has acquired the permit to mine more than 99,000 hectares of these lands through a Financial Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) under the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.”
With this, Dalinan warned of “more human rights violations including forcible evacuations, filing of trumped-up charges against community leaders, attacks on lumad alternative schools, killings and massacres have been committed with impunity against lumads.”
Dalinan cited as example the massacre of the Capion family in Tampakan, South Cotabato, where Juvy Capion, wife of a known anti-mining B’laan leader, together with her 10-year old child, were shot dead by members of military men.
However, the Philippine Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion, who is operating in the said area, denied the allegations and said there was an encounter between government troops and the rebel group, New People’s Army when the incident happened.
The cases of human rights violations, state by Dalinan’s group said to have “fueled” the resistance of the Lumads to defend their lives, ancestral lands, and livelihood.
“More vigorous actions have been taken up ranging from lobbying, signature campaigns, protest and mobilization, to even waging armed resistance and joining the revolutionary organization of New People’s Army (NPA),” Dalinan said.
Bringing the issue to the peace table
The week-long protest camp out was a form of their support to the on-going peace negotiation between the government and the NDF, said Dalinan.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) in Socsksargends Spokesperson Ryan Lariba said that, support groups do not only provide Lumads technical support, but also took part in the struggle.
He said they will raise the issues of the Lumads to the negotiation tables.
The resumption of the peace talks between the two parties are set to discuss the social and economic reforms in the government which will cover the farmer’s call for their land rights, and the Lumads and Moro’s assertion for their ancestral domain.
Lariba hopes that the peace negotiation will resolve the root cause of the armed conflict between government troops and NPAs.
The Sadyandi is set to end on August 26. Various government officials are expected to arrive in the camp out including Social Welfare and Develoment Secretary Judy Taguiwalo and Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano. (davaotoday.com)