Mindanao Lumads: Poverty worsened, not unchanged, for indigenous peoples

‘Let heroism flow through generations in defense of ancestral domains’

LIANGA, Surigao del Sur – A group of indigenous peoples in Mindanao have criticized the recent pronouncement by the country’s statistics board that poverty in the country remains unchanged.

“Poverty has not remained unchanged for indigenous peoples; it has worsened. This government survey certainly did not reach the mountains where indigenous peoples live,” said Dulphing Ogan, secretary general of the Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad sa Mindanao.

The group said the increased poverty experienced by indigenous peoples has been caused by the Aquino adminisration’s pandering of ancestral lands and resources in favor of foreign large-scale mining firms and agri-business plantations in the island.

This, Ogan said, had left Lumads more marginalized and have deprived them of sources for primary production, livelihood, and food security.

“Sulayan kaha ni Noynoy nga mukaon og kamote katulo sa usa ka adlaw sa iyang kinabuhi aron mahibaw siya nga nagsamot ang kalisod namong mga Lumad. Ang istatistiko sa gobyerno dili makatugkad ang nagkutoy namong mga tiyan (Aquino should try to eat camote three times a day for most of his life so that he will know how poverty has worsened for us Lumads. Government’s statistics cannot describe the grumbling of our stomachs),” Ogan said.

In a unity statement released to the media after its 2nd general assembly held here last April 19-21, KALUMARAN or Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad sa Mindanao said the Aquino regime is intensifying the destruction of lands and natural resources in Mindanao, including the killings and harassments of the leaders of Indigenous Peoples (IPs) through the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) courtesy of “Oplan Bayanihan”.

The intensified military operations in the rural areas, the statement added, are all intended to pave the way to the entry of large-scale mining companies and agri-business ventures of foreign capitalists, in cahoots with their local counterparts who are also the ruling elites in the country.

Worst, the statement added, Aquino and the AFP formed the armed vigilante and para-military groups mostly composed of IPs to guard the businesses of the capitalists, such as the Mindanao Indigenous Peoples Council for Peace and Development, the Task Force Gantangan, Alamara and Bagani Force.

These groups, Kalumaran confirmed, are being utilized by the regime through “Oplan Bayanihan” to terrorize to terrorize and drive away IPs from their communities.

Kalumaran also stressed that “the current and future generations of Lumads will frustrate this increased aggression perpetrated by the state and big private companies on ancestral domains in Mindanao.”

“Andam kami sa pagpunting sa among mga bangkaw, pana, balatik ug uban pang Lumadnong hinagiban kung gikinahanglan aron  mapukan, mapaundang, ug mapalayas ang mga imperyalistang tigpangawkaw sa yutang kabilin, inubanan sa lokal nga mga dagkong agalong yutaan, tigmonopoloyo sa yuta ug mga landgraber, ug mga pulitikong nakigkuntsabo kanila (We are ready to aim our bows and arrows, traps and other indigenous weapons if needed to defeat, stop and drive away the imperialists that destroy our ancestral lands, in cahoots with the big landlords, monopolists and land grabbers and politicians that deal with them),” Kalumaran emphasized in the statement.

The group also said they will widen the arena of their struggle by ensuring the victory of Katribu party-list come May 2013 elections.

The 2nd assembly of Kalumaran, which carried the theme, “Let our Heroic Struggles Flow through Generations in Defense of Ancestral Domain, Culture, and Rights,” brought together more than 350 Lumad leaders, IP women, youth, and support groups.###

FOR REFERENCE: DULPHING OGAN, Secretary General – 0946 703 7490