CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/27 June) – Lumads are hardest hit by the problems brought by mining operations and armed conflict in Mindanao, according to leaders of various Christian churches in the two-day peace conference that opened today in this city.
Based on the workshop outputs of the Northeastern Mindanao Religious Leaders’ Peace Summit on the current socioeconomic conditions of communities, the common results of mining operations have been environmental degradation and the displacement of Lumads from their ancestral domain.
The participants from Bukidnon cited the killing last year of Jimmy Liguyon, village chief of Dao in San Fernando town as the result of his opposition to mining activities in his barangay.
Liguyon’s death was blamed on Butsoy Salusad, a former New People’s Army (NPA) rebel who surrendered sometime in 2010. The Regional Trial Court in Malaybalay City had issued a warrant for his arrest but he has remained free.
Pastor Arturo Veladiez of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines said that Liguyon’s successor, Fausto Bacliran, was recently killed.
Veladiez, who belongs to the environment watchdog Panalipdan-Mindanao, said Bacliran’s death was also related to mining.
Some 60 priests, pastors, nuns and bishops from Northern Mindanao, Caraga Region and the Davao provinces are attending the summit to push for the resumption of talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front (NDF).
They said they will bring the situation of the Lumads along with some recommendations to the attention of the negotiating panels of both parties.
Fr. Albert Alejo, SJ, former member of the government technical working group on social and economic reforms in talks with the NDF, said the plight of the Lumads can be addressed by making the environment a framework for peace and development.
Alejo noted that the Lumads are locked up in all types of conflict in the island, from those involving the NPA and Moro rebel groups as well as in resource-based conflicts due to ancestral domain claims and the expansion of plantations.
He noted that there are “gaps in peace and development framework as against IP (indigenous peoples) worldviews.”
“Let’s examine the proposals of revolutionary groups for the IPs. What is their development plans for the IPs?” he said.
“They make war in the lands of the IPs, but what are their plans for the IPs?” Alejo added, alluding to both the government and rebel groups.
“Some of us may side with either the military or the rebels, but who side with the Lumads?” he added.
Higaonon Datu Antonio Lumandong of Claveria, Misamis Oriental lamented that Lumads have been torn between the military and the NPA. He said this situation has pitted even relatives against each other.
He said programs and projects proposed by government and corporations have also divided the Lumads.
The tribal leader said that one way to address this problem is to clearly define the functions and limits of both formal governance and traditional governance as practiced by the Lumads.
He added that Lumad leaders can be more effective if they get formal education. “If they understand the ways of the lowlanders and the government bureaucracy, they can’t be easily swayed by groups with vested interest. No matter how good a tribal leader is, he will encounter difficulties if he is not familiar with the world outside his domain.”
Lumandong attended the summit as an observer.
The summit is organized by the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, a group composed of various Christian churches and groups in the country including the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and the National Council of Churches of the Philippines. (H. Marcos C. Mordeno/MindaNews)