Reacting to statements made by President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday, February 1 at a gathering at the military’s Mindanao Eastern Command headquarters that he would open up ancestral domains to investors (https://www.rappler.com/nation/195043-duterte-find-investors-ancestral-domains), Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC/Friends of the Earth Philippines) said:
“Investors and corporations have historically been the cause of injustices against indigenous peoples. President Duterte erroneously believes that liberalizing our natural resources will result in development. Plantation after plantation, mining project after mining project, we see that it is corporations who profit while indigenous peoples are left as poor as ever.
Source : Mindanews
In stark contrast, lumad narratives will show how corporate interests tantalized communities with quick dole-outs that led to their worsening poverty. In Bong Mal, Tampakan, South Cotabato, the deaths of two B’laan brothers protecting their land against mining interests remain unjustified after decades. Recently, T’boli leader Datu Victor Danyan and his sons and other relatives were killed in a military operation. They were standing their ground against an agro-industrial corporation that bid to retain their ancestral land, and were erroneously tagged as communist rebels.
If President Duterte is aiming for development in the ancestral domains, he can start with providing basic social services in health and education to indigenous peoples; ordering an end to militarization and military attacks against indigenous peoples such as the recent massacre of Datu Victor; and supporting the right of self-determination of indigenous peoples.
As a son of Mindanao, the President should know better that the history of Mindanao is a portfolio of landgrabs. What he needs to realize is that there is much to learn from those he regards as the kind of development that is sustainable, ecological, communal and innovative. Rather than opening ancestral domains to investors, who often end up destroying the environment, dividing communities, and committing human rights abuses, the President should use government funds to empower indigenous peoples with livelihood and employment opportunities, for example, by supporting sustainable agricultural practices of indigenous peoples. In Maguindanao the Tedurays practice their Sulagad farming system, preserving what is traditional and finding ways of innovation. The promise of President Duterte to provide 100 Million pesos to develop agriculture in ancestral domains is a good start.
Mindanao is fast losing its forest covers. The extremes of droughts and flooding have become normal occurrence; his own Davao is not immune. Ancestral domains are the last bastions that preserve and protect the island he declares he is devoted to. Many have died to tell this lesson. He should not let their deaths go to waste. It is their right as first born of the island to determine their histories.
***Photo credits Merdeka.com, Mindanews