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MANILA, Philippines – The Lambangian and Teduray indigenous peoples and migrant settlers staged a protest on Thursday, December 7, to oppose the proposed mineral reservation in South Upi, Maguindanao del Sur.
Last October, the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Energy (MENRE) of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) released a notice of public hearing as part of the process to declare 3,566 hectares of land located in barangays Romongaob and Kuya of South Upi as a mineral reservation.
Establishing a mineral reservation opens the land to mining activities that seek to develop and utilize the mineral resources found in the area.
“Any and all persons interested to air their views regarding the establishment of the mentioned mineral reservation are hereby notified of the schedule of public hearing,” the notice read.
The hearing was set at the South Upi municipal gym on December 7.
However, according to Task Force Bantay Kalikasan (TFBK) and Tanggol Karapatan ng Katutubong Kababaihan (TK3), the supposed public hearing became an “information, education, and communication (IEC) campaign with limited number of participants.”
At the last minute, the IEC campaign was cancelled and people were told to wait for the advice of South Upi Vice Mayor Roldan Benito after the latter’s closed-door meeting with MENRE and the consultancy agency.
TFBK is a campaign network formed by Teduray and Lambangian clans to defend their claim to ancestral domains. TK3 is an indigenous women-led human rights team.
“Para sa amin, ang pagbabago ng programa ay isang paraan para lituhin kami. Mahihirapan kami na ipahayag ang pagtutol sa proposal ng mineral reservation sa loob ng aming fusaka inged,” said Mary Joie Meliz, a Teduray woman leader from South Upi.
(For us, the change in program is one way to confuse us. We’ll have a hard time expressing our opposition to the proposal against the mineral reservation proposal that is located in our ancestral domain.)
TFBK chairperson Titay Bleyen Santos Unsad said MENRE is violating their rights and their pending claim before the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).
“Nilalabag nila ang free and prior informed consent namin bilang mga katutubo sa lugar. Dapat nilang malaman na pending sa NCIP ang Teduray-Lambangian Ancestral Domain Claim (TLADC) namin. Dapat maging transparent sila sa mga proseso,” Unsad said.
(They’re violating our free and prior informed consent as indigenous people of the place. They should know that the Teduray-Lambangian Ancestral Domain Claim is still pending at the NCIP. They should be transparent in their processes.)
The TLADC covers a total of 208,258.58 hectares of ancestral lands and waters. The indigenous peoples have been fighting for government recognition of their ancestral domains since 2005.
The proposed mineral reservation area will also cover Mount Kulayan and Mount Dakeluwan, considered by the Lambangian and Teduray as sacred ground.
“Nananawagan kami sa gobyerno na kilalanin ang aming karapatan. Nananawagan din kami sa mga tagapagtaguyod ng karapatan, mga katutubo, at kalikasan na makiisa sa aming nagkakaisang boses na tutulan ang pagtayo ng mineral reservation area,” Unsad said.
(We’re calling on the government to recognize our rights. We’re calling on human rights defenders, indigenous people, and environment defenders to unite with us in a single voice to oppose the establishment of the mineral reservation area.) – Rappler.com