The tapestry of Mindanao identities would not be complete without looking at the plight of the indigenous peoples. For decades now, the lumad of Mindanao have always been victims of second order minoritization, that is, they are both a national and a regional minority, excluded from the rewards of development.
Among the growing concerns besetting the indigenous peoples of Mindanao are (1) the fear brought by the NCIP Resolution (No.08-009-2021 s. 2021), which denounced the use of the term “Lumad” for its alleged association with the CPP-NPA-NDFP (CNN) increasing their insecurity and making them vulnerable to vilification, (2) the escalation of land conflicts inside the ancestral domains (ADs) due to overlapping claims of occupancy rights and proliferation of medium to high end projects that resulted to the changing landscapes of the ADS, (3) insecurities of the IPs in representation and participation in the BARMM, and, (4) the threats posed by development aggression of extractive industries in the ancestral domains of the indigenous peoples.
Special attention must be given to the non-moro IPs within and in the adjacent communities of BARMM. The setbacks they had to struggle with, in the defunct ARMM continue to persist in the newly formed BARMM. While the bangsamoro have obtained their autonomy, the lumad have yet to find a genuine empowerment, albeit the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997. The lumad have the double disadvantage of asserting themselves from the standpoint of a minority within a minority, to obtain an autonomy within an autonomy.
This whole narrative represented the tale of at least two peoples of Mindanao. Both are victims of historical injustice yearning to correct the mistakes of the past through a legislative measure. Both are claiming to exercise their demand for a recognized autonomy within the bounds of their right to self determination as a people. Both have subscribed to their Filipino identity amidst the diversity of identities they espouse, with constitutionally guaranteed rights to their culture and traditions. Both are steadfastly defending their people and protecting their territories, albeit through different modalities. One has already won their cause 20 years ago through IPRA. The other has corrected a poorly governed entity called ARMM and has now transformed it into BARMM. But in the course of the latter’s assertion for a more genuine autonomy, the former’s identities and territories are threatened. Unless the assertions of the lumad are incorporated, the BBL might yet be another ARMM – a failed experiment. Hence, PRRD must ensure that the lumad will have their fair share of development.
But this development should not be pursued at the expense of the ancestral domains of the lumad in particular and the Mindanao environment in general. President Duterte signed Executive Order No. 130 last April 14, 2021, which in effect lifts the moratorium on mining applications in the Philippines. To Mindanao, this was a kiss of death to the environment and what remains of its frontiers. Environmental plunder and disaster are now forthcoming with the last breaths of Mother Earth enduring only until its premature demise.
The president must revoke EO 130. If genuine development is to be pursued through mineral extraction, the president must call for the passage of the Alternative Minerals Management Bill and the proposed National Land Use Act that have been pending in congress for years now. Large scale mining is killing the country. Its appropriateness does not sit well in an island ecosystem and an archipelagic state like the Philippines.
Echoing the words of then DENR Secretary Gina Lopez: “we cannot build the economy of the country on the suffering of the Filipino people and the destruction of the environment.” Truly, we cannot build the future of our country on abetting the plunder of private investors and foreigners at the expense of the Filipino people and of Mother Earth.
Even more aggressively, the president sent his emissaries through the DENR to meet with the leaders of the local government of South Cotabato last July 2. In that meeting, a marching order was given to see the full operation of SMI Gold Copper Project in Tampakan within the next two years.
SMI Tampakan covers 4 provincial boundaries, the headwaters of six (6) catchments and 2 major river systems. The final mining area (FMA) covers 9,605 hectares of land covering 4 different municipalities in Davao Del Sur (Kiblawan), Sultan Kudarat (Columbio), Sarangani (Malungon) and South Cotabato (Tampakan). Given the natural resource it provides, Tampakan does not only belong to South Cotabato. It belongs to Mindanao.
This simply means one thing – our shared home is in peril of destruction and the only thing that stands in the way of SMI’s full operation is the Environment Code of the Province of South Cotabao, bearing section 22 that bans open-pit mining. Disturbing this ban would mean death of the watershed, food insecurity in the region, and injury to the traditions of the B’laans.
When President Duterte joined around 5,000 Mindanawons in the “2016 OYA Mindanao: The State of Mindanao Environment Day,” at the Ateneo de Davao University, he swore to destroy all “monster oligarchs” who have interests at plundering the country’s mineral resources through extraction. He even promised to destroy their clutches only to protect the lands of Mindanao. Five years since, he signs EO 130 – an act that belies his promise to protect Mindanao and the country from large-scale mining projects. Instead, he now feeds the voracious appetite of the neoliberal “monsters” he pledged to obliterate with the patrimony of the peoples of Mindanao he swore to protect. Towards this end, PRRD must keep his promise to protect Mindanao’s environment.
If indeed PRRD is from Mindanao and of Mindanao, his heart and soul must also be for Mindanao, primus inter pares. While this may be the last State of the Nation Address of the first Mindanawon President, he still has a year to heed the calls of the Mindanawons – Enduring Peace, Empowerment of Lumad and Environmental Protection. Otherwise, if these issues fall on deaf ears, it would be a disservice to his Mindanawon identity. If Mindanao is relegated into the peripheries again, then “change is coming” is nothing but a lip service!
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