DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/24 July) – An estimated 100 Lumads (indigenous peoples) from various parts of the country will gather at the foot for Mt. Kitanglad in Bukidnon for the fourth State of the Indigenous Peoples’ Address (SIPA) in time for President Benigno Aquino’s first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 26.
The SIPA will begin at 1 p.m. on Monday and will end on the 29th of July.
Erwin Quinones, campaigns paralegal of Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan (LRC-KsK), told MindaNews that the IP representatives will be coming “from areas affected by development aggression.”
He said this includes encroachment of mining, plantations and hydro-power plants into the ancestral domains of the indigenous peoples.
Quinones said development projects also led to militarization condoned by the previous administration and eventually resulted to the surge of human rights violation cases in the IP communities, he said. “President Aquino should order the demilitarization of these areas,” he said.
Aside from laying down their agenda for the new administration, the 4th SIPA will also reiterate several demands aired before the previous administration.
Quinones said some issues affecting the IPs are doable within the six-year term of the President. He added these are the same issues that have been ignored by the Arroyo administration.
“President Aquino can ensure security to the communities threatened by development projects like the proposed gold and copper open-pit mining in Tampakan and coal mining Lake Sebu, all in South Cotabato,” he said.
The President, he added, “may also cancel all development projects, like extractive industries that have encroached into the ancestral domains of the Lumads since these are unacceptable to them.”
In the previous administration, IP advocates called for the review of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) to make it more culturally appropriate and sensitive.
“These are just among the agenda that will be discussed during the SIPA. We believe that these are doable. If he cannot meet even one or two of these demands, then he is no different from Ms Arroyo,” he said.
Quinones noted that after providing copies of the SIPA to the concerned government agencies, they never received any response.
“We were always told that they will see what they can do. After they acknowledged the letters, nothing happened,” Quinones said. (Keith Bacongco/MindaNews)