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Tribal body supports oil search ban

Government is 'infringing on indigenous peoples' right to self-determination'

Members of the tribal peoples’ group Kamp call for an end to mining in tribal areas
  • Kerima Bulan T. Navales and D'jay Lazaro, Davao City
  • Philippines
  • August 2, 2011
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An indigenous peoples’ confederation yesterday backed calls made by the Moro Islamic Liberation (MILF) for the government to stop oil exploration in Mindanao.

"We express our support for the MILF’s opposition to oil and gas exploration in what [the rebel group] calls the Bangsamoro homeland," said Piya Macliing Malayao, spokeswoman for the National Alliance of Indigenous Peoples' Organizations in the Philippines .

Malayao said genuine economic development "should be geared toward rescuing the Bangsamoro people from impoverishment."

The rebels earlier threatened to pull out of peace negotiations after the government allowed foreign companies to conduct oil and gas exploration in areas claimed by the Moro people.

The presidential palace, however, said yesterday that exploration will continue despite the threat.

"Based on the interest that’s been shown by investors, we have no plans to suspend it," said Ramon Carandang, President Benigno Aquino's spokesman.

Carandang said exploration "is for the good of the entire country, and we hope that separatist groups will see this in this context."

At least 15 areas in the southern Philippines have been offered up for exploration and development bids.

Malayao, however, said the Bangsamoro and indigenous peoples "have to defend and assert their right to their lands for their own self-determined development and for the Filipino people and not for private profit."

She said the "the right of self-determination is the right of all people. The use, ownership, control of our ancestral territories and resources found therein are an expression of that right."

Malayao said the exploration projects "do not prioritize peoples' rights and welfare" and only cause "displacement and further oppression of our people."

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