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Tribal people demand recognition

Indigenous conference calls for role in peace talks, mining restrictions

Members of a tribal community call for the defense of their rights during a meeting of tribal leaders Members of a tribal community call for the defense of their rights during a meeting of tribal leaders
  • Artemio A. Dumlao and Lyn Ramo, La Trinidad
  • Philippines
  • March 28, 2011
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Representatives of 56 tribal groups have called on the government to support a policy agenda and action plan drawn up indigenous peoples, which includes recognition of their place in the peace process.

The call came as the government’s National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) vowed to promptly address issues raised by tribal people, such as tenurial rights, especially relating to mining.

Representatives of tribal communities who, attended a meeting in Baguio City over the weekend, also expressed opposition to mining operations especially in "ancestral lands."

They called for the passage of a mining law that would "respect their existence," rejected the government master plan for tribal people, and called for the immediate evaluation of state policies on tribal people and an overhaul of the NCIP.

Beverly Longid, president of Katribu party, said mining and other government projects have been encroaching into indigenous peoples' territories, in the process violating several rights.

She said, however, that tribal people are not anti-mining per se.

At the very least, it should be Filipino-owned, government-controlled, and in line with national industrialization, she said.

Bae Lourdes Suhat, a leader of the Manobo tribe in the southern Philippines, cited her community's opposition to all types of mining operations in their area.

Suhat said the local government received applications from various companies but the community remained steadfast in its resolve.

Participants at the gathering also issued a resolution asserting their collective rights and aspirations for peace.

"The recognition of rights of the indigenous peoples should be addressed and taken as one of the major issues in the peace talks," the tribal people said in a statement.

Teresita Quintos-Deles, President Aquino's peace process adviser, assured participants that she will sit down with the NCIP to review all points that were raised during the meeting.

She said the views of tribal people are continuously being heard in negotiations with both the Muslim and communist rebels.

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