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Peace talks 'must include tribal rights'

Philippine government, communists urged to discuss plight of indigenous people

Members of an indigenous people’s group stage a show for peace Members of an indigenous people’s group stage a show for peace
  • ucanews.com, Manila
  • Philippines
  • February 15, 2011
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Tribal people in the Philippines are calling on the government and communist rebels to consider the rights of indigenous people in peace negotiations that opened in Norway today.

“Indigenous people are directly affected by the war raging in the countryside,” said Piya Malayao, spokesperson of the National Federation of Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines.

“Our lands are militarized as a result of counter-insurgency campaigns in ancestral territories,” she said.

Peace negotiations between the government and the communist-led National Democratic Front (NDF) have resumed following a seven year hiatus.

Communist rebels have waged a rural-based protracted insurgency in the Philippines for 42 years.

Tribal people expect the government to take the first step in creating a favorable atmosphere in the talks, Malayao said.

“The [government] has powers and resources to adopt goodwill measures to forge trust and sincerity with the NDF. They must take these steps to ensure the success of the peace process,” she said.

Previous talks between the government and the rebels produced the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and the Joint Agreement on Immunity Guarantees.

“Respect and implementation of past accords is a must. They are signs of goodwill and sincerity among the two sides,” Malayao added.

She reiterated her federation’s call for the immediate release of political prisoners and providing the whereabouts of missing people, including members of indigenous peoples groups.

Malayao said indigenous peoples “have a major stake” in the peace negotiations in terms of national industrialization, foreign economic and trade relations and tribal rights.

“We expect that these matters will be discussed in the talks as well,” she said.

“Indigenous communities suffer the worst from landlessness, human rights abuses and poverty,” she added.

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