BAGUIO CITY (November 15, 2019) — Philippine indigenous peoples land, territories and resources are being likened “to a huge mango orchard laden with ripe fruits”, Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples Rights (TFIP) chief and Ibaloy- Igorot Jacqueline K. Cariño during the Regional Consultation on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Asia in Bangkok, Thailand on Thursday.
“After indigenous peoples planted the seeds, tended and grew the trees since time immemorial, the fruits, the trees and even the land on which they stand are coveted and now up for grabs by State and corporate interests,” she grumbled as she presented data by several participating indigenous peoples organizations in the Philippines during the National Indigenous Peoples Consultation on November 6- 7, 2019 in Quezon City.
Cariño is a granddaughter of the great Ibaloy- Igorot leader Mateo Cariño who filed a suit in the US court against the American intrusion into the old native Ibaloy lands in Baguio City, which eventually granted government’s obligation to recognize “native title” as valid land rights.
The current Philippine administration’s 10-point Economic Agenda and the Philippine Development Plan for 2017-2022 has set the policy framework for the grabbing of indigenous peoples’ land, territories and resources in violation of the right to self-determination, Cariño said in the Thailand conference, adding, “government policies and programs in mining, energy development, plantations, forestry, special economic zones and infrastructure are marking a clear trend towards widespread dispossession and displacement of indigenous peoples from their ancestral territories.”
She also expressed disappointment with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) as ”fallen far way below and even violated its own mandate of protecting indigenous peoples’ rights,” even as the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA), considered by the international community as a landmark legislation in the recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights, provides for the issuance of Certificates of Ancestral Land and Ancestral Domain Titles (CALT / CADT) and requires Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) for projects to be implemented in their territories.
Cariño raised as clear examples of how provisions of the IPRA and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) are being violated in energy, dams and water supply projects citing priority projects like the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project in Kalinga and the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam project in Rizal and Quezon provinces. She claimed that “both projects are being built in indigenous communities with detrimental effects, both are revivals of the Marcosera mega-dam projects, both are multi-billion peso projects funded by onerous Chinese loan agreements disadvantageous to the interest of the Filipino people, both are staunchly protested and resisted by the affected communities and other organizations.”
She claimed that many hydro-power projects are ongoing or planned in other ancestral territories that will displace more than 100,000 indigenous peoples from at least 106 villages citing the Agus-Pulangi dams in Bukidnon and North Cotabato; Balog-balog dam in Ayta lands in Tarlac, Ilaguen Dam in Isabela, Diduyon Dam in Nueva Vizcaya, Jalaur Multi-Purpose Project and Pan-ay River Basin Integrated Development Project in the Tumandok lands in Iloilo and Capiz; Alimit Hydro Complex of the SN Abotiz in Ifugao; Karayan dam in Kalinga; Dupinga dam in Nueva Ecija; Sumag River Diversion Tunnel in Quezon, and the Violago Olympia Power Dam in Rizal.
Aside from hydro-power, geothermal energy will be harnessed in the projects of American firm Chevron and local company Aragorn Power and Energy in Kalinga province; the PRC Magma in the provinces of Benguet, Mt. Province, and Ifugao; and the Aboitiz Power Corp. in Pampanga and Zambales, and in South Cotabato. Coal Operating Contracts (COC) issued by the Department of Energy are also encroaching on hundreds of thousands of hectares of ancestral lands in 7 municipalities of Surigao del Sur covering parts of the sacred Andap Valley Complex, and in the provinces of Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay, Sarangani, South Cotabato, Agusan del Sur, Agusan del Norte and Palawan, Carino claimed.
Mining is still a main threat faced by many indigenous groups in different regions in the country, the Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples Rights chief added. She claimed that the ancestral lands and resources of the Igorot people in Benguet, Mt. Province, Ilocos Sur are endangered by ongoing mining operations of huge commercial mining firms like Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co. and Philex Mining, aside from several mining applications of Cordillera Exploration, Inc..
Pyramid Hill Mining Industrial Corp. has made aggressive moves in the Southern part of Palawan to extract limestone and cement. Benguet Corp. Nickel Mines, Inc. and its partner companies destroyed lands occupied by Ayta, Igorot and Sambal populations in Santa Cruz, Zambales. And recently, the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) of the Philippine government with Australian mining giant OceanaGold Philippines, Inc. expired on June 20, 2019. OceanaGold applied for an extension of their FTAA, but this was met with strong resistance by the Ifugao indigenous people in Didipio and the local government of Nueva Vizcaya.
At present, Cariño declared, 230 of the 447 approved mining applications are in ancestral territories, allegedly “encroaching” in at least 542,245 hectares of ancestral lands. This comprise 72% of the 748,590 hectares covered by all the approved mining applications, she noted.
While at least 130,000 hectares of ancestral lands are occupied and controlled by giant local and foreign corporations for different kinds of monocrop plantations including banana, pineapple, oil palm, bioethanol, coffee and other agribusiness crops.
These plantations have worsened the loss of livelihood, hunger and human rights violations suffered by the indigenous peoples, especially in Mindanao and Palawan, Cariño claimed. The use of banned pesticides such as carbofuran (Furadan) and glyphosate has inflicted indigenous peoples living close to these plantations with respiratory, skin, and gastrointestinal diseases, she added.
‘Traditional crops such as coconut and banana have withered and died, incurring even more loss of income for the indigenous farmers.’ Lumad communities in Mindanao are adversely affected, Cariño claimed, by the banana plantation of the Sumitomo Fruit Corporation (SUMIFRU), a Japanese corporation that covers at least 16,000 hectares, SUMIFRU which implements the piece rate system is being decribed by critics as the “worst exploitative” wage system for its farm workers, including indigenous peoples whose lands were grabbed. This while pioneers DOLE and Del Monte, are expanding operations to Sultan Kudarat and Saranggani provinces.