Tribal groups and environmental defenders in the Philippines called for an end to “decades of plunder” of their ancestral homes during the observance of International Indigenous Peoples Day on Tuesday, August 9.
“Large-scale mining, dams, energy, and other foreign projects are masqueraded as ‘development’ at the expense of the indigenous peoples’ self-determination and human rights,” read a statement from the group Defend Cordillera Philippines.
About a hundred activists and tribal people staged a demonstration outside the offices of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to dramatize call for respect for the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
They said activists and indigenous groups in places such as Quezon and South Cotabato provinces have been targeted by authorities for resistance to so-called development aggression.
“Indigenous people who fight to protect their ancestral lands should be rightfully recognized as heroes of the environment,” said Jon Bonifacio, acting national coordinator of the Kalikasan Peoples’ Network for the Environment.
Bonifacio expressed hope that the new Environment Secretary, Toni Yulo-Loyzaga, “is willing to listen to the plight of our heroes and take a firm stance against destructive extractive industries operating on their lands.”
Kalikasan PNE recently released a report noting a 1,773 percent increase in attacks against environmental defenders.
The Philippines has also already been labeled in previous years by international groups as “the most dangerous country in Asia for environmental activists.”
In a statement, Katribu, an alliance of indigenous peoples organizations, denounced what they described as the “increasing wave of false information” that “strengthen existing systems of discrimination and oppression.”
They said that disinformation has resulted in imprisonment, torture, even death, of indigenous people in tribal communities in recent years due to “relentless red-tagging.”
They said that “red-tagging” of their leaders has caused the killings of nine Tumandok, three Dumagat, three Lumad, and seven T’boli-Manobo people. Lumad schools in Mindanao also closed after being tagged as training grounds of communist rebels.
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