Environmental activists and a tribal people’s group called on the government to pull out soldiers who were reported to have been deployed in indigenous people’s communities in the past weeks.
“We call on the [police] and the [military] to pull out their troops immediately in the Tumandok areas,” said read a statement by Beverly Longid, national convener of Katribu Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan sa Pilipinas.
Longid said police and military operations in the ancestral lands of the Tumandok indigenous tribe in Calinog, Iloilo, and Tapaz, Capiz, “are causing alarm and fear for the Tumandok.”
In 2020, state forces simultaneously raided two Tumandok communities in Iloilo and Capiz, killing nine community leaders and arresting 17 others.
The Jalaur megadam in the island of Panay has faced controversy in recent years due to alleged human rights violations.
Just last week 300 soldiers again conducted military operations in the Tumandok communities, causing widespread fear there that a repeat of the 2020 massacre would occur.
“Civil-military ops like this often lead to human rights violations, intimidation, and disunity in the IP communities,” said Longid, adding that it causes fear and confusion among the people.
“Like in the past, this might lead to dispossession and displacement,” she said.
Kalikasan People PNE, an environmental group, also expressed alarm over the recent deployment of military troops in the ancestral lands.
The group said the soldiers are not there to “keep the peace,” but instead have been sent there to “quell the resistance” of the Tumandok people against the controversial Jalaur megadam project.
“On top of violating Indigenous peoples’ rights, these megadams cause large-scale environmental destruction in the long run,” said the group in a statement.
Aside from the Jalaur megadam, other dam projects across the country have also been met with community resistance in recent years.
Kalikasan urged the Department of Environment and National Resources to immediately stop and review these megadam projects.