NORZAGARAY, Bulacan, June 2, 2015–-A religious brother and indigenous Peoples (IP)’s rights advocate has chided groups alleged to be forcibly obtaining IPs’ go signal to the proposed mining in Tampakan, South Cotabato, reminding them that these people have certain rights under the law that must be protected and upheld.
Respect IP rights
“We must always respect the right of IPs to make their own decisions freely. The IPRA [Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act] guarantees that IPs are free to govern themselves and to determine their future despite the laborious process and the possible blunders it entails,” Br. Martin Francisco, a member of Blessed Sacrament Missionaries of the Poor (BSMP) who serves the Dumagat communities of the Sierra Madre in Bulacan, told CBCP News in an interview.
This reaction came at the heels of a recent appeal made by Fr. Joy Pelino, the director of the Social Action Center of the Diocese of Marbel (SAC Marbel), to the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), that it may look into the way its regional offices are trying to secure the IPs’ consent to mining in the region, to the effect that the latter are reportedly being compelled to agree to something they do not want.
In a statement, the priest speaks on behalf of SAC Marbel, requesting the NCIP to “immediately and judiciously act” on the call of the IPs.
“If activities are pursued this comes out to be a continuous betrayal of the IPs’ rights and also of NCIP policies—we have yet to be clarified if what should be implemented in Tampakan is the 2006 or the 2012 FPIC Guidelines. And we continuously urge for the clear en banc decision on the matter,” Pelino stressed.
Meanwhile, the Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) states the B’laan tribes have initially petitioned for NON-FPIC coverage, and expressed disapproval of the Tampakan Copper and Gold Mining Project.
ATM stresses further that the B’laans particularly object to the NCIP Region XI and XII offices’ persistence in obtaining their consent to the Tampakan mining project given the many unresolved cases of human rights abuses, and what they consider “violations of B’laan tradition and culture.”
Pelino noted, “In the end, what we seek is NCIP to be advocates for IP rights and be the voice of the IP, and not facilitators of mining projects and other development aggressions.”
Free, informed consent
According to Francisco, the concept of FPIC or free and prior, informed consent, lies at the heart of “leading and helping” the IPs in order to correct the “historical and generational mistakes” of missionaries and support groups regardless of how good and noble their intentions may have been.
IPRA IV.13 reads: “The State recognizes the inherent right of ICCs/IPs to self-governance and self-determination and respects the integrity of their values, practices and institutions. Consequently, the State shall guarantee the right of ICCs/IPs to freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”
“God has given us free will. But why do we keep denying that IPs have as much free will just like all of us?” asked Francisco, who also fights for the conservation of the mountain range he has called home for six years. (Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCP News)