NGO fears impact of gov’t’s counter-insurgency programs on Lumads

"Displacement is just one of the consequences of GMA's plan to end communist insurgency by 2010 in areas where encounters between the NPA guerillas and government armed forces happen. Most of these areas are ancestral lands of indigenous peoples, driving them out of their lands would not just deprive them of their sources of their livelihoods but of their culture," Mary Luz Feranil, Executive Director of the Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao (AFRIM), said in a statement
to the press.

Kelly Delgado, Secretary General of the human rights group Karapatan, had earlier said that the attack against NPA guerillas is a calculated operation and an attempt to secure mining operations and applications in Davao Oriental.

"This kind of situation could worsen especially with President Arroyo's announcement during her recent visit to Tagum City of the creation of an Investment Defense Force (IDF) aimed at safeguarding electricity transmission lines and mining companies. President Arroyo described it as a form of "protective shield" for power facilities, telecommunications towers, and mining operations, most of which are  situated in remote IP areas and this leaves the indigenous peoples at the losing end," Feranil added.

Further, Feranil stressed the creation of such body is a classic case of Arroyo's pro-foreign policy economic framework and a manifestation of her administration's adherence to multilateral agreements set between the Philippines and foreign investors.

It can be recalled that in December 2004, the Supreme Court's ruling on the constitutionality of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, penned by President Arroyo when she was still a senator, caused clamor among various sectors. Civil society and religious sectors consider the Act unconstitutional on the grounds that most of its provisions on tax holidays, ownerships, and expropriations favor foreign mining
investors. Since the ruling, around 2.7 million hectares or roughly 12 percent of Mindanao's total land area have been opened to various mining operations.

"It is quite obvious that with the creation of the IDF, government is only after the security of foreign investments at the detriment of communities, who already have long suffered from lack of basic social services reaching their areas," Feranil quipped.

A brigade-size group of soldiers arrived last Saturday in the coastal town of Mati, Davao Oriental, to beef up military operations following President Arroyo's announcement of the creation of IDF where soldiers will be sent to secure mining sites and other development projects.

"We therefore urge affected indigenous communities to take a stand and assert their rights over their ancestral lands. We call on them to be vigilant in monitoring future activities of the IDF that could possibly undermine their basic human rights," Feranil stressed. (AFRIM)

Venus Budoy-Betita
Peacebuilding, Information and Education Services (PIES)
Alternate Forum for Research in Mindanao (AFRIM)
1H Anda Corporate Centre, F. Iñigo St., Davao City