MANILA — In commemoration of the International Day of Indigenous People, more than a hundred indigenous people from various tribes in Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon protested against the Mining Act of 1995 and Aquino’s Executive Order 79 at Mendiola Wednesday.
The indigenous people threw javelins at a 6-ft. tall back hoe/military tank effigy being driven by President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. The effigy, they said, shows the true nature of president’s policies as far as the indigenous peoples of this country are concerned. Based on the experiences shared by members and leaders of various tribes, Aquino has been unleashing into their tribes the twin, interacting “scourges” of large-scale mining and militarization.
The protesting indigenous peoples groups later burned the effigy to condemn the Aquino government’s “anti-environment and anti-people policies.”
President Aquino’s policies for indigenous people are just “empty rhetoric and blatant lies,” said Arnel delos Santos, a Dumagat and secretary general of Bigkis at Lakas ng mga Katutubo sa Timog Katagalugan (BALATIK ). Arnel is son of the slain Dumagat leader Nicanor Delos Santos.
“Aquino brags of respecting the indigenous peoples’ rights yet he is enacting at the same time anti-indigenous peoples policies,” Arnel delos Santos added.
BALATIK described “the sham Mining EO 79” as a mining policy that only big mining companies are happy about, because with this policy, “these big mining companies can further strengthen their grip on our lands.”
More than half or 60-percent of approved 507 mining applications for nickel, copper, gold and other minerals, covering 1,027,348 hectares, straddle ancestral territories, affecting more than 30 tribes, the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP) said in a statement.
Aside from mining and militarization, the indigenous peoples’ groups also bared the inherent aggression being brought to their tribes by some of Aquino’s biggest projects under his Public-Private Partnership Program. Delos Santos of Balatik warned against the construction, for example, of the Laiban Dam in Rizal.
“Laiban Dam will displace us from our ancestral domain. It will submerge seven barangays in Rizal and Quezon, which are all communities of the Dumagat people. If this destructive dam pushes through, delos Santos warned that they will declare a war against Aquino.
(Text by Marya Salamat, Photos by Gregorio “Jhun” Dantes)