CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 25 May) – The Mindanao Business Council (MinBC) is setting up a facility that will guide businesses in going through the local landscape in order to lessen, if not avoid, conflict with indigenous peoples.
The facility, called the Mindanao Indigenous Peoples (IP) Desk, is a joint initiative of the MinBC, the nongovernment group International Alert and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).
“The Desk seeks to change the adversarial relationship that companies often have with indigenous peoples into partnerships marked by mutual benefit, respect and protection,” said Judy Gulane of International Alert.
“It is set up in response to many examples of violent conflict in ancestral lands that were triggered by companies that did not adapt to the local situation or made no effort to know the IP groups and key actors who live in these areas,” Gulane added.
Mindanao is rife with stories of violent conflicts arising from the entry of large scale business projects into rural areas, mostly in ancestral domains of indigenous peoples, whether for power generation, crop plantations or mineral extraction.
According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Mindanao hosts about 61 percent of the country’s 110 ethno-linguistic groups that, in all, account to some 14 to 17 million.
The IP Desk will be overseen by a core group composed of representatives of the International Alert, NCIP, MinBC and local government units.
It will guide companies planning to set up operations in ancestral lands particularly on where to place their investments, how to manage risks, and how to relate to different tribes.
“A facility such as this is important especially as Mindanao, particularly Muslim Mindanao, attracts more investors,” explained Gulane.
“This Desk is the first of its kind in the country,” Gulane added.
The project had its beginnings with a European Union-supported initiative in Maguindanao, Compostela Valley, Agusan del Sur, Bataan and Palawan by International Alert.
The project will be launched on Tuesday, May 26, at the Balay Kalinaw Conference Hall of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City. (Ryan D. Rosauro / Contributor)