TABUK, Kalinga, Oct. 15, 2014—Despite constant pleas to respect their inherent rights as human beings and as Filipino citizens, a Catholic bishop laments it is still a long way to go for the various indigenous peoples (IPs) in the country as they fight for the treatment they deserve.
“Foremost among these challenges and difficulties is the non-recognition of their rights to ancestral domains and lands, culture and self-determination. The continued intrusion into their ancestral domains/lands of different profit-oriented business companies, such as in mining, logging, single crop plantation, huge dam and energy programs, and other infrastructures projects without the true process of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) clearly violates their rights,” says Tabuk Bishop Prudencio P. Andaya.
He adds that militarization escalates whenever IPs demand the right to safeguard their cultural heritage.
In a statement released Tuesday, Oct. 14, the prelate notes that many local leaders fail to support the “indigenous peoples’ mandatory representation” (IPMR).
He says these politicians make excuses to avoid having to accommodate real IP leaders chosen by their communities to represent them in local legislative branches.
He points out that many local governments still use “patronage politics” in indigenous communities, adding that IPs have as yet no real participation in the affairs of their LGUs.
Andaya, who chairs the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP)’s Episcopal Commission on Indigenous Peoples (ECIP) calls on all IP groups in the Philippines to “unite and have a common voice in projecting their issues and concerns”.
He stresses these and other expectations of partner IP will be addressed only if most Filipinos will get themselves involved in the full recognition of the rights of Filipino IPs.
Tabuk’s apostolic vicar expresses hope and keeps praying that mutual respect and sharing will prevail in our hearts and actions so that the blessings of God may be felt by IP communities amidst all the challenges.
“We hope that during this year’s celebration of IP Sunday, we will get more support from our non-indigenous brothers and sisters to look into the current situations of indigenous peoples and provide necessary assistance to alleviate the challenges and difficulties experienced by more or less 15 million IPs throughout the country,” Andaya said. (Raymond A. Sebastián)