DAVAO CITY – Advocates revived a support group for indigenous peoples and peasants amidst what they call “an intensified attack” on Lumad and peasant communities in Mindanao.

The group, formerly the Solidarity Action Group for Indigenous Peoples (Sagip) was revived and renamed Sagipp to include peasants.

“Sagip literally means to save. The word action means we really have to act actively. The name Sagip plus the P is just right as majority of the IPs are also peasants,” said Luz Ilagan, representative of Gabriela Women’s Party.

Ilagan was one of those who founded Sagip in 1994, when Manobos of Talaingod were then fighting the big logging company C. Alcantara and Sons Inc (CASI, formerly Alsons).

CASI secured a 25-year Industrial Forest Management Agreement (IFMA) with the Department of Environment and natural Resources (DENR) to use 20,000 hectares of its former forest concession for commercial logging operations.

“But today, it is not only Alsons but many more mining and logging companies who are encroaching Lumad communities in Mindanao,” said Ilagan.

Representative Karlos Ysagani Zarate of Bayan Muna partylist in his “state of the IPs” speech during Sagipp’s launching program said “About 100,000 individuals from 39 tribal groups may be displaced by the all-out mining policy of the current administration.”

Zarate said estimates put the country’s mineral resources at $312 billion, where 83 mining tenements are found in Mindanao.

“The privatization of water (and energy) resources, the construction of hydroelectric dam and geothermal and coal fired plants (also threaten Lumad communities),” he said.

Zarate said the Aquino administration is set to build 149 hydroelectric and 16 geothermal plants across the country.

He said the government also targets 8 million hectares of palm oil plantations, 304,000 plus hectares of which are in Southern Philippines.

Zarate said the projects “are being facilitated by the state’s Operation Plan Bayanihan which targets IP leaders who are vocal against these investments and the oppression of their communities.”

Zarate said 62 IP leaders were killed under the Aquino administration.

Meanwhile, Teddy Casiño, former representative of Bayan Muna, said support groups are also being attacked.

“Is it because we arm Lumads? Yes. It is true. We arm them with education,” he said.

“We educate them regarding corporate mining and plantations,” he said.

He added that “we also arm Lumads with the knowledge on how to expand the reach of their demands even reaching the international community,” he said.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, in a message read by Davao City Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative Bai Halila Sudagar, affirmed the problems confronting IPs.

“Eviction from ancestral land, disruption of age-old customs and traditions and the onslaught of development are threatening the very right of these people to peaceful existence,” he said.

Duterte said he hopes that the group would “exchange collective ideas to find lasting solutions” to problems such as militarization and cultural aggression.

Sagipp members closed their program by signing messages and putting them on a “Solidatree”. (davaotoday.com)

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