19 September, 2017

Philippine State of Indigenous Peoples Address 2015

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Indigenous peoples lament invisibility of their situation and issues in the last State of the Nation Address (SONA) delivered by President Aquino, given at the last year of his term as the President of the Philippines. 76 indigenous leaders and representatives, including indigenous women, from 41 indigenous peoples' communities all over the Philippines participated in the 3-day celebration of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, which was held in Metro Manila, Philippines.

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We remain invisible to P’Noy, say Indigenous Peoples

Download the State of Indigenous Peoples Address (SIPA) 2015

Aug. 11, 2015 (Quezon City, PHILIPPINES) – “We lament the glaring invisibility of indigenous peoples' situation and issues in the last State of the Nation Address (SONA) delivered by President Aquino. Five years have passed, we remain invisible to P’Noy.”

This was expressed by Datu Roldan Babelon, Erumanen Manuvu from Cotabato, reflecting the sentiment of the other 78 women and men leaders from 38 indigenous communities who have gathered together to discuss and deliver their own State of Indigenous Peoples Address (SIPA).

“We are disappointed that we were directly mentioned only once in a speech that lasted 2 hours and 13 minutes, and only in the context of how the Alternative Learning System (ALS) has lessened the number of out of school youth among the indigenous peoples and street children. We reiterate that the ALS is a government program that is not meant specifically for indigenous peoples, and is not always implemented in a culturally-appropriate manner.”

Indigenous peoples use mock

Angeline Ortiz, a Mansaka from Compostela Valley, said that what they urgently demand is the recognition and respect for indigenous peoples' schools that we have established ourselves, or with assistance of support organizations. “P’Noy should see and recognize our efforts in providing education for our own children through our own IP schools. But the military comes and questions us, and accuses us of being subversives. They camp out in our schools, and harass our teachers.” According to the SIPA, from 2011 to 2015 alone, there have been eighty two (82) documented incidences of military violations involving 57 schools in Mindanao. The harassment to school administrators, teachers and community leaders include threats, intimidation and even burning of school building.

In his SONA, P’Noy reported the success of his Sitio Electrification Program (SEP), providing electricity even to the remotest areas. But the IP groups said that while some indigenous communities have benefitted from this, they are not really the targeted beneficiaries of the program. This electricity comes with the entry of ecotourism, hydropower and even landfill projects without the free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples.

“There are indeed a lot of projects that are coming in to our ancestral domains, but most of these are not those that indigenous peoples want, or need,” Conchita Bigong, an Alangan-Mangyan from Mindoro Oriental, says.“One of these is large-scale mining, like that of Mindoro Nickel Project of Intex Resources.  P’Noy, how can you not see how we do not like this project? I was part of the 10-day hunger strike against this, our provincial government has a 25-year moratorium on open-pit mines? We do not need this project. We want our land, rivers and remaining forest protected.” Early this year, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources reinstated the Environmental Compliance Certificate of Intext Resources which was suspended in 2010.

The IP leaders also said that the President's focus on infrastructure development, encouragement of domestic and foreign direct investments, and on modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is alarming for them, especially in the context of increased pressure on our lands from extractive industries and the militarization and red-tagging of indigenous leaders that come with the entry of these corporations.

The Jalaur Multi-Purpose Dam is one of these infrastructures that P’Noy proudly announced in his SONA. He said that this year will see the groundbreaking for its stage 2. “How can the president not see that we have been opposing this project for years now? There has been no genuine free, prior and informed consent from the indigenous communities,” says Remia Pastor, a Tumandok from Ilo-ilo. “The project will submerge 9 barangays. Does he not care about us?”

“For the past years that he was president, we have yet to feel his attention and care for indigenous peoples,” says Jennevie Cornelio, a Teduray woman leader from Upi, Maguindanao. “We have been raising our concerns in different ways on the peace process between the MILF and the government. Then, and now, we have said that there could be no genuine peace if our identity and rights as non-Moro Indigenous Peoples are not recognized and respected within the proposed Bangsamoro. We felt we have been sacrificed in the name of peace with the MILF.”

According to the SIPA, “We recognize that the struggle of our Muslim brothers and sisters for peace and against oppression and historical injustice is a just struggle. But the right to self-determination of indigenous peoples is not lower than that of the Bangsamoro.”

The SIPA declared that the P’Noy administration has been blind to the plight of the indigenous peoples. Jing Corpuz, a Kankanaey from Cordillera, said that no concrete programs, with culturally-appropriate mechanisms, have been in place to truly address the poverty and vulnerabilities of indigenous communities. “Instead, our lands and resources have been offered to lure foreign direct investments, and as battlefields for conflicts we are not part of.”

SIPA is an annual declaration of the indigenous peoples, in reaction to the President’s SONA. This year’s SIPA has been presented to the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, and to the different government agencies.

Download the State of Indigenous Peoples Address (SIPA) 2015