Lumad leaders to investors: go through right process

"Investors do not undergo the right process when they do business in our territory. They directly contact agents who have personal agenda. They short-cut the process,” Datu Luis Lambac of North Cotabato, told a press conference before the convention opened today.

To do business in areas claimed to be the Lumads’ ancestral domain, the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997 mandates that investors must secure a Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) from the community.

Initially, securing the FPIC took at least six months as Lumads go through a series of consultations. But persistent lobbying from the mining sector led to the reduction of the time by half, from 180 days to  90 days by 2005.

Under the IPRA, the FPIC and the certificate of pre-condition are “instruments of empowerment”  to protect the primary rights of the Lumads in the “implementation of development projects, programs, activities and other business or profit oriented investments within their ancestral domains to ensure their economic, social and cultural well-being.”

The tribal leaders told reporters they want the issue on FPIC addressed at the convention, stressing they are not against development but they want their rights over their ancestral domain recognized by the investors.

"We have land, but we do not have money. We want investors, but only if they go through the right process,” Datu Ramon Bayaan, a Manobo, said.

Datu Joel Unad, chair of the Mindanao Indigenous People’s Conference for Peace and Development (MIPCPD),  on the other hand, lamented that  local government units in Mindanao do not recognize the leadership of  the Lumads.

He said this is a manifestation that the IPRA is not satisfactorily implemented.

"The leadership of the indigenous peoples (IPs) is not recognized, not even at the level of the local governments because they do not fully understand IPRA,” Unad said. (Cherry Concon/MindaNews)