DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/22 July) – The resumption of peace talks between government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) will help address the conflict between some of the Lumad and the military, Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo said.
In a press conference Friday in Haran Evacuation Center here, Taguiwalo said sending soldiers to secure the communities will not solve the insurgency as the Lumad are wary about their presence.
“President (Rodrigo) Duterte said during the debates that the insurgency has historical and systemic roots, which could not be solved militarily. I think the resumption of the process is an important step to address the issue of the Lumad,” she said.
She said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) must acknowledge that militarization has forced the Lumad to leave their homes and seek refuge in evacuation centers like Haran, which is run by the United Church of Christ of the Philippines.
Some 300 Lumad from Kapalong and Talaingod towns in Davao del Norte and Bukidnon have been staying in Haran for over a year. They had subsisted on support from other groups while makeshift classrooms had been put up for their children.
“Hopefully, the peace process, the resumption of the peace talks which the president has initiated will contribute to the kind of peace that our people need, not only for the Lumad in our communities but also for the Moro people, in Luzon and Visayas,” she added.
Taguiwalo said the Lumads are only asking for an end to military operations in their communities and to be recognized as owners of the ancestral land that must not be sold to companies like those engaged in mining.
“That’s what they are asking, so we want to give what they want. We have to act on it, but it should made clear to the military,” she said.
She said Duterte knows the concerns of the Lumads and reported to him “the kind of action we wish to do.”
“It’s not for me to talk to the military about this. It is up to the president to organize the kind of dialogue with respective authorities. How fast is he going to answer that? When is he going to do that? We shall wait and see,” she added. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)