Lantapan, Bukidnon – Close to a hundred Indigenous Peoples representatives from Luzon and Mindanao gathered at the Apu Agbibilin Community Center in Brgy. Songco yesterday agreed to craft a common platform for action which will serve as basis for their engagement with the new administration and guide for their collective pursuit of their right to self-determination.
“Our peoples were the original inhabitants of this land. We were here long before the Philippines came into existence. But through force or deception we were incorporated into this nation.”said Datu Vic Saway, one of the Talaandig delgates to the third State of the Indigenous Peoples Address (SIPA).
The IP participants say their assimilation into the Filipino “nation” has brought nothing but trouble for their peoples. The country’s indigenous communities have lost most of their land and have been subjected to centuries of abuse. Where they once ruled, they are now marginalized and discriminated against.
“Our incorporation into this political system has only brought the entry of destructive development projects such as mining, logging and plantations. Some of us have also suffered displacement and forced evacuation from wars that we were not even party to,”Peter Duyapat, an Ifugao representative from Nueva Vizcaya said.
“We listened intently as the new president gave his State of the Nation Address. But as with past leaders, it seems his concept of nation does not include us. As with previous presidents we barely deserved mention in his speech. And while we appreciate his statement that we will be part of any negotiation regarding peace in Mindanao, we are concerned at the direction he seems to be taking with respect to economic policy is to adopt the same old formulas that have already proven inadequate” said Nilda Mangilay, a Subanen of Zamboanga del Sur.
The IP leaders analyzed the SONA and agreed that it failed to address some of the most basic aspirations of their sector such as recognition of their right to self-determination and reversal of policies that have undermined their culture and their very existence.
“We will push even harder for the recognition of our customary laws, equal status in the Mindanao peace negotiations, recognition of our right to greater self-governance, genuine implementation of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act., accountability of the NCIP. And we will strengthen our ranks and push our collective agenda together as a unified IP movement,”stated Quintol Labuayan, a B’laan of Sultan Kudarat..
“We will not wait for government to act on our demands. We have not forgotten our sad experiences in the past, when our demands were ignored and our rights systematically curtailed and undermined by governments which served only the interests of the rich and powerful, such as big business and foreign investors.” said Cristina Batiel Moyaen, a Kankaney from Apayao”and so we commit ourselves to pursue our common agenda as indigenous peoples through the SIPA.”