TODAY, August 9, is the International Day of the World's Indigenous People. It was so declared by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1994 to celebrate August 9 as such every year throughout the Decade of the World's Indigenous People, which is from 2005 to 2014.

"The Declaration is a visionary step towards addressing the human rights of indigenous peoples... I encourage Member States and indigenous peoples to come together in a spirit of mutual respect, and make use of the Declaration as the living document it is so that it has a real and positive effect throughout the world," said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for this year's celebration.

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Next week, the city will be celebrating the Kadayawan sa Dabaw Festival, the city's celebration of its bountiful harvests and indigenous cultures.

It is heartening that the city government itself has consistently pointed out that this celebration we set out every year is really all about our indigenous peoples (lumads). But there should be more than just celebrations.

For so many generations, our lumads have been swept to the sidelines, discriminated, looked down upon, exploited, duped out of their ancestral rights and properties, and thus made to feel ashamed of their roots. Such is slowly changing through the years, with more and more lumads asserting their right to self-determination and ancestral domain. There still remain the exploiters among us, including fellow lumads themselves, who see only the still vast lands the lumads are in.

Even the Indigenous Peoples Reform Act (Ipra Law) is circumvented many times, while others employ deceitful means to get what the Ipra Law demands to get their hands on lumad land, specifically on the issue of free prior and informed consent (FPIC) certification from lumad communities.

In exploiting land that is the ancestral domain of lumads, FPIC has to be issued by the lumad community involved. But as history would shows, since the Ipra Law was enacted in 1997, there have been several dubious means used to get this FPIC that have deprived the lumads of their lands.

The Ipra Law, however, states is clearly when it declared that "The State shall protect the rights of ICCs/IPs to their ancestral domains to ensure their economic, social and cultural well being and shall recognize the applicability of customary laws governing property rights or relations in determining the ownership and extent of ancestral domain."

Right in our backyard, the issue of Pulangui 5 Mega-Dam in Bukidnon is threatening to inundate tribal villages amid promises of growth and development.

But of course, greed for what these mountain lands have can never be stopped. There will always be the avaricious who will try to grab those resource-rich lands from the gullible hands of the poor lumads.

Thus, let next week's Kadayawan celebration be a celebration of brotherhood with and appreciation of our lumads, and a commitment to stand by what government has stated when it enacted the Ipra Law.

As a community, we can only stand up for what has been declared as rightfully that of the lumads because the residual forests they live in are our last bastions of protection from the wrath of nature that would otherwise drown us with floodwaters, bury us in landslides, or parch our throats.