Mindanao IPs slam Duterte's plans for lumad lands

INDIGENOUS people’s groups in Mindanao have condemned President Rodrigo Duterte’s latest pronouncement that he will have lumad communities relocated and allow their ancestral lands to be used by investors.

The Kahugpongan sa mga Lumad sa Mindanao (Kalumaran) called Duterte’s move as “a total sell-out” of the remaining ancestral lands and mineral resources that have long been defended by the IPs to foreign multinational companies.

Instead of telling the [IPs] to protect their ancestral lands from the hands of the big landlords and foreign investors, the group said Duterte himself has become “the spokesperson of foreign capitalists to further plunder the environment and natural resources.”

In a gathering attended by hundreds of lumad leaders, Duterte said he will look for investors to put up businesses in their ancestral lands as he told them to move away from their communities as the military continues its combat operations against the Communist rebels.

Last year, Duterte also angered the lumad when he threatened to bomb lumad schools in Mindanao, accusing their teachers of teaching children the Communist ideology.

For its part, the Sandugo Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-determination, said it is the investors, big corporations, military and Duterte who are causing problems and not the lumad.

“While supposed to be protected by the Philippine Constitution, ancestral lands have long been a source of Malacañan government’s salivation to sell it to big foreign investors, such as mining and plantations. Only this president had the utmost arrogance to pronounce the sale of our ancestral lands and territories,” said Datu Jerome Succor Aba, Sandugo co-chairperson.

Datu Jomorito Goaynon, Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization chairperson, said what Duterte plans to do is a direct violation of the rights of the lumad.

“He (Duterte) is only showing that he is anti-lumad,” said Goaynon in an interview Sunday.

Goaynon said once the government takes away their land, it is tantamount to killing them.

“Sama ra gihapon nga mamatay ang mga lumad kung ilogon ang ilang yuta (If they take our land from us, it is just like they are taking away our life),” he added.

Goaynon said their ancestral land is not just their dwelling place but it is also their market, place of worship, venue of their rituals, and pharmacy.

“We cannot allow this, this is land grabbing. We will do something about it,” he said, adding that this issue will become a topic of discussion during a nationwide IP meeting in Manila next month.

In Northern Mindanao alone, about 400,000 hectares are being occupied by the tribal communities through the ancestral domain title issued by the government.

Most of the lumad in the region are living in Bukidnon, the home of the seven tribes – Higaonon, Manobo, Tigwahanon, Bukidnon, Umayamnon, Matigsalug, and Talaandig.

Goaynon estimated the lumad population in Northern Mindanao to be around 800,000. Most of the IPs in the region are Higaonon, numbering about 300,000.

In a separate interview, Sr. Jean Amar said Duterte’s proposal would certainly displace thousands of tribal peoples from all over Mindanao who rely on their ancestral land for their livelihood.

Amar belongs to the Medical Mission Sisters, a religious order which has been providing help to some of the lumad communities in Bukidnon through a culture-based education.

Amar called Duterte’s pushing for the relocation of the lumad communities and his desire to broker for the entry of huge businesses in tribal lands a “desperate move” as any plans to encroach on ancestral territory is usually met with resistance.

“They (lumad) will resist. They will protect their land because for them land is life,” she said.

Duterte, Amar said, is using his presidential power to facilitate the entry of local and foreign investors in tribal lands and this is a “terrifying” thought that the President himself has initiated the violation of the rights of the IPs.

“As the father of the nation, Duterte should look after the welfare of the people, but he did not see the plight of the lumad,” she added.

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