Press release
November 14, 2015

Church Help in Asserting IP Rights of Ifugao People

LAGAWE, Ifugao- “Nagsakit ti nakem mi nga ibaga ti NCIP nga haan mi kano a bagi ti daga ta tax declaration lang ti egem mi a papel isunga ab-abangan mi lang kano daytoy iti gobyerno” (We are deeply saddened when the NCIP told us that we do not own the land because we only have a tax declaration so it appears that we are renting the land from the government) was the cry of the Kalanguya Indigenous Peoples as they sought support from the various churches in an IP-Church dialogue hosted by St. Mary Magdelene Parish on November 11.

The IP-Church dialogue was convened by the Ifugao Peasant Movement (IPM) and Regional Ecumenical Council in the Cordillera (RECCORD) and attended by more than 40 representatives from different churches and Ifugao communities affected by energy projects. The forum was initiated as a response to the numerous complaints being reported to them about IP rights violations in Ifugao.

The Indigenous People (IP) of Ifugao’s message to the church was, “stand with us in our quest for the respect of our Indigenous Peoples rights”. Ifugao has three ethnolinguistic Indigenous peoples group, the Ayangan, the Kalanguya, and the Tuwali.

The Kalanguya people of Tinoc from Eheb, Impugong, Tukucan, and Binablayan narrated their experiences with the Ayala backed Quadriver Energy Corporation and Sta. Clara Corporation mini-hydro dam, and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) in their conduct of the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) in their ancestral lands.

According to the Kalanguyas, the (FPIC) process was manipulated and railroaded. The communities were unaware of (FPIC) and its process thus, they were deceived into signing a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Sta. Clara Corporation in 2007.

In their testimony, they said they were not aware of their supposed consent to surrender their water rights to the Sta Clara Corporation. They said there were no proper consultations made before signing a MOA. The Kalanguyas were not given a chance to review the MOA since there was no copy given to them. The MOA was given to the Tinoc IPs only when there was already a Certificate of Precondition (CP).

There were also violations in the method of gathering signatures as the Sta. Clara corporation chose to gather signatures house-to-house instead of conducting a community meeting. Other violations cited included unfair royalty shares, very low rentals of their lands, and the massive vilification of IPs opposing the project.

The Kalanguyas registered their strong opposition to the tunneling component of the project and the 7 kilometer diameter catch basin which they only learned after the MOA was signed and a CP was out. The tunneling component would cause destruction to their livelihood.

It was also very painful for the Tinoc IPs to hear the NCIP saying that the Kalanguyas are not the owners of the land because they only have tax declarations which means they are only renting the land from the government.

Since the FPIC process was manipulated and totally disregarded and threats and harassment increased, the communities retracted their signature from the MOA with the Quadriver and the NCIP.

Their staunch opposition to these projects is getting stronger as they are gathering more support from their kailyans (villagemates) and other support groups. But they are worried that their opposition to the projects are the reason the government deployed the military to their municipality since August up until now.

The people claim there are around 800 soldiers deployed in the Municipality of Tinoc consisting of the 54th IBPA, 77th IBPA, Cafgu, and PNP Public Safety Units scouring every barangay. That is roughly one soldier to every ten voters in Tinoc.

The Ifugao IPs asked the church to denounce the intensive political persecution of their leaders and support groups in facebook where their faces are being posted and tagged as rebels, making them targets of graver Human Rights Violations. Most of their pictures are stolen shots indicating intense surveillance conducted.

Meanwhile, the Ayangan peoples of Lamut and Lagawe who would be affected with the 380MW SN Aboitiz hydro power complex called for the support of the church in ensuring a full and proper implementation of the FPIC process so they will not experience what happened in Tinoc. They requested the church to help conduct Information Education Campaign on their IP rights.

The biblical theme was fitting, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream” as the churches vowed to raise concern for the protection and conservation of natural resources and for the respect of indigenous people’s rights.

The different churches sympathized with the Kalanguya and Ayangan people and are optimistic that they can find ways how to help concretely with the plight of Indigenous Peoples in Ifugao. The church leaders reiterated not to lose hope as God is always with us.

In response to the issues raised by the affected communities, Fr. Habawel expressed his concern and prayer for a fair MOA, full and proper implementation of the FPIC process; proper information and education of grass root communities; and safety for those vilified, tagged and threatened in continuing their work. On the other hand, Rev. Infante assured that the UCCP supports the aspirations of the people and as a church they will listen to the plights of the people.

For its part, RECCORD firmly supports the people in their campaign for nurturing the environment. This is also an affirmation of their 12th General Assembly theme of advancing the indigenous peoples agenda for genuine peace and freedom and upholding IP rights. And lastly, Bp. Wandag reiterated the important role of churches in listening and solidarity to the issues and problems of IPs and the wider society. He further stated that the church should also lead the people to genuine development and peace.

The forum also agreed to issue a statement condemning political persecution and a plan to conduct a solidarity mission and pastoral visit in Tinoc by the different churches to hear directly from the affected communities.

The Churches that responded to the plight of the Ifugao Indigenous people were the Roman Catholic Church represented by Fr. John Habawel; Episcopal Church of the Philippines (ECP) represented by Rt. Rev. Bishop Alexander Wandag; United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP) represented by Rev. Melita Infante, conference Minister, North East Luzon Conference; and Jesus is Alive represented by Agustin Nahakey. In attendance were also other father priests, church workers, pastors and pastoras. #Brandon Lee

Ms. Bestang Sarah K. Dekdeken

International Solidarity Commission
No. 55 Ferguson Road
Baguio City 2600, Philippines
Telephone No: +63 74 4229754
Fax No: +63 74 4437159
Website: www.cpaphils.org