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Standing for the Rights of IPs

Many of the country’s indigenous peoples and cultural communities have always been threatened by the powerful and the rich who gain wealth from their ancestral lands. (Photo courtesy of Pressenza/International Press Agency)

If you don’t like where you are, move. You are not a tree. — Anonymous

(Last of Two Parts)

MOST of the country’s indigenous communities are resisting the encroachment into their lands and the destruction of the forests, but many of their advocates and eco-defenders are being killed or have actually been murdered because of their advocacy to protect the environment.

Added to this, thousands of native farmers are losing their livelihood because of the non-stop burning of fossil fuel.

According to a Global Witness report, in the past decade or so, almost two thousand eco-advocates have been murdered throughout the world while defending their ancestral lands and forests against illegal loggers and miners.

Reacting to the meaningless slaughter, Pope Francis has expressed serious concern and now stands firm with the indigenous peoples of the world. During a conference last May, the pontiff challenged the mining industry to be “at the service of the entire human community,” especially with indigenous peoples who are being pressured “to abandon their homelands to make room for mining projects.”

Here in the Philippines, the Aeta did not resist the destruction of their rainforest and they simply learned to adapt, becoming survival farmers on their denuded ancestral mountain lands growing cassava, sweet potatoes, bananas, vegetables, and fruits like mango, avocado and jackfruit.

This is why reforestation is now a priority. Thousands of farmers are also losing their livelihood because of the non-stop burning of fossil fuel, coal and oil and gas in massive quantities in the industrialized world. For a fact, our country relies mostly on coal-burning power plants for electricity generation.

This despite the Philippines having strong constant wind and solar heat as well as hydro and geothermal resources that can replace coal-fired power plants.

However, the powerful family dynasties that control government and run the coal plants are resisting any change that would disrupt their operations and the huge profits they get. So our indigenous cultural communities (ICCs) and indigenous peoples (IPs) are at the bad end of the table and they continue to be abused and exploited and often disregarded by the powerful, the influential and the rich.

So we ask, what is the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) doing about this problem? And if the Commission will reply that they are basically doing the utmost in fulfilling their mandate, then we would like to see the results of their endeavors that would dispute the claims and complaints of the people whose rights they should be protecting.

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AMERICAN reformed theologian Reinhold Neibuhr once prayed, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

In life, there is only one thing that does not change—death. The passing away of icon Danny Javier of the APO Hiking Society brings sadness but it also proves that death indeed is constant in our lives.

Still we are bereaved with Manong Danny’s passing away. Online tributes and messages are pouring in for Danny Javier, a third of the iconic OPM group Apo Hiking Society, after news of his death broke last week (October 31, 2022). He was 75 years old. Manong Danny Javier

of the APO Hiking Society.

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