PHILIPPINES: IPs call for NCIP end in UN forum

Thursday 22 May 2014

Date: 18 May 2014 Type: News Source: Keywords: FPIC, indigenous people, Cordillera

BAGUIO CITY — Several Indigenous Peoples (IP) groups in the Philippines led by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) have called for the dissolution of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) during the on-going 13th United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) at the UN Headquarters in New York, United States of America.

“The NCIP has for a long time failed to protect indigenous peoples’ rights and well-being and instead worsens the violations of indigenous peoples’ rights and human rights. It is for this reason that our organizations are now calling for the dismantling of the NCIP.”

This was the militant groups conclusion presented during the UNFPII’s joint intervention in relation to Agenda item 3 or the study on best practices and examples in resolving land disputes and land claims, in relation to the NCIP of the Philippines.

The UNPFII is an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) whose mandate is to discuss indigenous issues related to economic, social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights. The said forum is held every year for 10 days. This year it runs from May 12 to 23.

Nordis contacted NCIP Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) Regional Director Atty. Amador Batay-an and NCIP CAR Legal Officer Atty. John Libiran to get the agency’s comment but they were unavailable because their en banc session was on-going.

“The NCIP is mandated by law, through the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997, to promote and protect the rights and well-being of the indigenous peoples in the country. However, for 17 years since its establishment in 1997, the NCIP has not truly upheld indigenous peoples’ rights. Instead, it served as a tool for perpetrating development aggression and massive natural resource extraction, systematic land grabbing, human rights violations, and violations to our right to self-determination, self-determined sustainable development, and collective rights to our land and resources,” said the IP groups.

They highlighted several recent examples of how NCIP failed to fullfil its mandate. One is the discrepancy of how in the 11 years existence of NCIP, it processed “less than 8% of the estimated 7.5 million hectares land area of ancestral domain has been registered” compared to the issuance of “175 certificates for development projects by foreign mining companies and other business in indigenous lands.” The group also claimed that it only takes four months for a mining company to secure its permit from the NCIP while IP groups have to wait for six or more years for the recognition of their ancestral domain.

“In the Cordillera region, in Guinaang, Pasil, Kalinga, the NCIP provincial office deceived the people into signing a resolution of consent in favor of the Makilala Mining Project of Freeport-Macmoran, without providing the necessary information for the community to make an informed decision. Even though the Guinaang tribe already has its own Council of Elders, the NCIP created a fake council of elders to represent the tribe and manipulated the resolution of consent. Thus, tribal leaders petitioned the NCIP to issue a temporary restraining order against the FPIC process, yet the NCIP claims that there are no FPIC process irregularities,” they added.

They cited too how the NCIP “manipulated the FPIC process for exploration of the huge Tampakan Mining project of Glencore-Xstrata-SMI in Mindanao, setting up fake tribal councils and undermining the customary decision-making processes of the affected Blaan communities.”

“In Sofronio Española in Palawan, a series of mining companies were given permits to operate in the ancestral domain of the Pelawan indigenous peoples, despite serious violations of FPIC processes by the NCIP and the company,” the activists said.

Aside from these, they described how “among the Iraya Mangyan in Abra de Ilog, Mindoro, the voice of the opposition was not reflected in the final MOA between the community and the Agusan Petroleum and Mineral Corporation (APMC).”

Lastly, the IP groups noted how the NCIP failed to act in order to defend IPs from the alarming rise of human rights violations under the administration of Philippine president Benigno C. Aquino III. They mention that in four years, “there have been 44 indigenous peoples killed including 6 children; 18 incidents of forced evacuation in 5 provinces; 16 incidents of harassment and encampment by the military in indigenous peoples schools; and numerous cases of political vilification and filing of charges against indigenous leaders and organizations.”

Aside from the CPA, the other IP groups were Innabuyog Gabriela of the Cordillera, Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Kamp), Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad sa Mindanao (Kalumaran), Tumanduk from the Visayas, and BAI National Alliance of Indigenous Women’s Organizations in the Philippines. #

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