DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/20 March)— Lumad or indigenous peoples leaders in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) have expressed support to the creation of the Bangsamoro region, but are worried on the fate of their ancestral domains in the new entity.
In a press conference on Wednesday at the Philippine Information Agency office here, Timuay Alim Bandara, a Teduray tribal leader, said that indigenous peoples have expressed to their representatives in the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) the need to respect their ancestral domain claims.
The BTC is drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the charter that would govern the new Bangsamoro region once passed by Congress and ratified by the constituents in a plebiscite. The Bangsamoro, the product of the final peace deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, will replace the ARMM.
Bandara said they were worried about their own claims even at the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).
“What we are after is the awarding of our CADT (certificate of ancestral domain title) and CADCs (certificate of ancestral domain claims) so that if the Bangsamoro is created, we don’t have to worry about outsiders selling our land or spoiling our natural resources,” Bandara said.
He added their ancestral domains continuously face environmental threats such as mining and logging.
“We would like to insist on our own rights, too,” said Bandara, head claimant of the unified claim of the Teduray Lambangian and Dulangan Manuvu ancestral domain claim.
The group has been pursuing their claim since 2005.
“What we are afraid of is the clashing of national laws. We have the NCIP, we have the Bangsamoro, and these are both legitimate issues,” he said. “Where are the indigenous peoples in all of this?”
Bandara feared that the government would say that the “IPs no longer need help because there is already the NCIP for them to process their claims.”
But there is no NCIP office in the ARMM, Bandara said.
He said they will follow the democratic processes, including going to Congress to express the side of the indigenous peoples.
“We want our voices heard. The government treats indigenous peoples as tourist objects and are shown whenever visitors need to applaud,” Bandara said. “This shouldn’t be the case. We have voices, too.”
“What would happen to the resources within our land?” he asked. “We’re afraid because we don’t know what will happen to our claims when the law is signed.”
Timuay Santos Unsad, a Teduray leader, said that even within the NCIP, there was “no consensus about what to do with the IPs in the ARMM.”
Unsad was a former NCIP commissioner.
Datu Roldan Babelon, from Carmen, North Cotabato, said they have been fighting for their own ancestral domains since 1997, when the NCIP and the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) were created.
“What will happen to the IPs when the Bangsamoro is created?” he asked, saying that BTC’s recommendations to Congress should include inputs from the tribal leaders.
“Non-Moro indigenous peoples have our own distinct identity, and we want the government to recognize that,” Babelon said.
Datu Al Saliling, leader of the Erumenun nu Menuvu tribe, also said that lumad bakwits (internally displaced persons) should be heard before the signing of the BBL.
Apotanan Colmo, an Obo Manuvu tribal leader, said that “the annexes to the Bangsamoro documents are clear regarding the main holdings, but not about the indigenous peoples’ ancestral domain claims.” (MindaNews)