On the 27th of October, LAMMP took part in a hearing with MP Mark Durkan at the UK Parliament to discuss the protection of women human rights defenders in the context of natural resource extraction. For the occasion, Jane Lingbawan Yap-eo, from the Philippines, wrote an appeal to the UK Parliament:
362 Cathedral of the Resurrection Church Compound, Lower Magsaysay Avenue, 2600 Baguio City
Cordillera Administrative Region, Northern Luzon, Philippines
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Sirs/madams of the UK parliament, a blessed morning to all. I am Jane Lingbawan Yap-eo, a development worker and a human rights defender in the Philippines. I am honoured to be here before you to convey to you the real situation on the ground especially that of Indigenous peoples in the Philippines. I am here before you not only to express our worsening inhuman situation but to request for your support as well.
Comprising around 15% or approximately 12 to 15 million of the Philippine’s total population of 92,337,852 million are Indigenous Peoples (IPs). Indigenous peoples in the Philippines are composed of 110 ethno-linguistic groups and are located in 50 of the country’s 78 provinces. They inhabit more than five million hectares of ancestral lands of the country’s total landmass of 30 million hectares.
The non-recognition of their rights to ancestral lands remains the core problem of indigenous peoples in the Philippines. Promulgated laws and policies by the Philippine government, especially pertaining to land use and ownership, deprive indigenous peoples of their rights over these ancestral lands. They are deprived of their right to manage, own, control and utilize these lands and all resources found therein. The Mining Act of 1995 institutionalized and legalized mining plunder by allowing 100% foreign ownership of mineral lands. The government actively peddled the country’s mineral resources in mining road shows around the world to attract foreign investment—heedless of the turmoil caused by mining in affected communities. Government data shows that there exist at least 184 approved mining applications in areas occupied by indigenous peoples covering an estimated 595, 058.11 hectares of ancestral lands in 28 provinces.
For decades now, the Mining Act has justified the devastation of ancestral lands and the pillage of the country’s national patrimony. The process of the Free Prior Informed Consent as provided by the IPRA law- a law enacted to safeguard the rights of Indigenous peoples, is massively manipulated by the heads and members of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and some local government officials in collaboration with the Mining company to favor mining. Compounding the violation of indigenous peoples’ rights to land is the use of military, paramilitary, police force, and other state-sanctioned armed groups to quell resistance to these projects. Hence it can’t be denied that operation of large-scale mining by local and transnational corporations is the biggest threat to the right to ancestral land and self-determination of indigenous peoples, their way of life, and ultimately their lives.
It is also over a decade now that every resistant and assertion of rights by indigenous peoples, lives are sacrificed (EJKs), forced evacuations, harassments and tortures, and rape of women and minor happened, but no one is made accountable for these heinous and inhumane crimes. Just recently on September 1 of the current year, a massacre of three Lumads community leaders (Emerito Samarca, Dionel Campos, and Aurelio Sinzo) who are development workers and human rights defenders happened. From that day up to this moment, community members/people are leaving their communities to seek refuge from the town centers because of the continuous threats by the para-military groups and the Armed Forces of the Philippines that they will be massacred if they will not leave their communities. The government act of impunity persists. In all these injustices, the most affected are women and children. Women and children sufferings not only happened during actual incidents but it continuous in an evacuation centers where most are affected with various sickness and diseases due to inadequate food supplement and water and uncomfortable sleeping facilities.
Rights of Indigenous peoples and the majority poor people are not being respected. The Philippine government as the duty bearer of these rights is the number 1 violators through its armed forces and its created and supported para-military groups. Civil war is on going in the Philippines between the armed forces of the government and the armed group of the CPP the NPA. While it is true that NPAs are in the communities of IPs as these are mainly located in forested mountainous areas, the community people and CSOs working for development in these communities are not to blame of the NPA presence. It is so unfair/injustice that they are being killed/massacred just because they talked with the NPAs who are roaming around the villages. Community people are caught in a cross fires between opposing armed groups.
We, the indigenous peoples in the Philippines appeal before the parliament of the United Kingdom to please help us on our demands to the Philippine Government:
- Stop the Philippine government’s act of impunity and let the criminals be punished.
- Immediate pull out of military and para-military groups in the Lumads areas and stop militarization of the Philippine communities.
- Stop vilifications and killings of human rights defenders and development workers.
- The Philippine Government under President Aquino to uphold collective rights of the people especially Indigenous peoples especially indigenous women.
- Stop the plunder of natural resources in Indigenous Peoples ancestral.
Thank you very much and God Bless!
Jane Lingbawan Yap-eo