OFWs in HK launch coalition for defense of land on ‘Tribal Filipino Sunday’

By MARYA SALAMAT

Bulatlat.com –

OFWs in HK launch coalition for defense of land on ‘Tribal Filipino Sunday’

3 November 2017

“As much as you, migrant workers all around the world are dreaming of
coming back home with your families, we share with you our dreams, for
our right to education, right to self-determination, a democratic
government, and a just society.”

MANILA – When indigenous peoples became migrant workers, they didn’t
forget their ancestral land or their people’s continuing struggles. Last
Sunday, October 29, the United Filipinos in Hong Kong
(UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK) reported a historic celebration of Tribal Filipino
Sunday. Migrant Filipinos working in Hong Kong turned a section of
Edinburgh Place in the state’s busy Central district into a meeting
place of overseas Filipino workers and indigenous peoples. They dubbed
the event ‘a breakthrough’ of various overseas Filipino groups.

More than 700 from different groups of tribal Filipino migrants and
advocates gathered at the Edinburgh Place and filled it with a festival
of ethnic songs and pattong. They mingled with other migrants in their
tribal gears and danced and chanted with them.

The historic event for migrant Filipinos and indigenous peoples was
organized by Lumads from Mindanao through the Mindanao (HK) Workers
Federation, Mangyans of Mindoro through Occidental Mindoro Association,
and Igorots from the Cordillera region through the Mountain Province
Federation, Benguet Federation, and Kalinga Province Hong Kong Workers
Association.

Each group of indigenous peoples who became overseas workers highlighted
the issues prevailing in their homeland.

During the gathering, they launched the “Defend Land, Life, and
Resources” (DLLR) Coalition Hong Kong. The Abra Tinguian Ilocano Society
(ATIS-HK), Cordillera Alliance (CORALL-HK) and United Filipinos in Hong
Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK) combined forces to bring the coalition to life.

Dolo Balladares, chairperson of UNIFIL, told Bulatlat there are many
indigenous peoples from Cordillera, Mindanao and other places in the
Philippines now working in Hong Kong. Even as they confront and take
action on the issues of migrant workers, they continue to seek a
resolution to the issues being faced by their fellow indigenous peoples
at home.

With DLLR, Balladares cheered the Tribal Filipino Sunday’s
“breakthrough” of having worked this year with six other migrants’
groups. These include the Benguet Federation, Kalinga Province HK
Workers Association, Pinatud a Saleng Ti Umili, Occidental Mindoro HK
Workers Federation, Mountain Province Federation HK, and Suyo Ilocos Sur
Association.

The DLLR Coalition took shape last Sunday, but it began earlier this
year with the indigenous groups’ launching of campaigns seeking to save
their ancestral lands from the encroachment of mining and energy projects.

The Suyo Ilocos Sur Association (SISA HK) and Cervantes Organization led
early this year among workers in Hong Kong the “No to Mining Exploration
in Cervantes” petition-signing campaign. It is directed against the
Cordillera Exploration Company (CEXI), a Nickel Asia Corp. company. The
indigenous groups of Cordillera have been resisting the gold and copper
exploration and mining permits of this company which covered a sizeable
portion of their ancestral lands.

Meanwhile, the Abra Tingguian Ilocano Society in Hong Kong (ATIS-HK)
started also early this year a “Save the Abra River” campaign. At the
same time, leaders and concerned migrants from Kalinga Province Hong
Kong Workers Association (KAHPWA) launched protests against the hydro
dam projects in their home communities.

These groups then reportedly linked up with the Cordillera Peoples
Alliance and Defend Ilocos Network to Save the Environment for a joint
campaign to defend their land, life and resources.

Another first in the Tribal Filipino Sunday among migrant Filipinos in
Hong Kong, they were joined by a lumad leader from Mindanao. Eufemia
Cullamat of the Manobo tribe in Surigao del Sur was keynote speaker in
the Tribal Filipino Sunday activities in Hong Kong.

Cullamat is a council member of MAPASU or the Malahutayong Pakigbigsog
alang sa Sumusunod (Persevering Struggle for the Next Generation) and
KASALO or Kahugpongan sa Lumad Organization. She participated in the
recent Lakbayan Para sa Katarungan at Sariling Pagpapasya in Manila for
about a month last September.

Before fellow indigenous peoples and migrants, Eufemia shared how, since
the 1980s, the Lumads have been repeatedly evacuating their community in
Lianga, Surigao del Sur due to bombings by the Armed Forces of the
Philippines (AFP). She said the bombings were really for the
‘protection’ of foreign mining companies.

“The people, especially women, were frightened. Many fear going out of
their house after persons they knew started getting killed, tortured or
harassed,” Cullamat said.

Cullamat said soldiers would ask about members of the New People’s Army
(NPA), but they would actually target the civilians. She reported
several human rights violations allegedly perpetrated by the AFP (Armed
Forces of the Philippines). Until now, she said, “nothing has changed —
we are still neglected by the government.”

Govt forces disrupting people-powered social services

MAPASU came into being through the help of Tribal Filipino Program in
Surigao del Sur or TRFPSS and the Church, the Diocese of Tandag. It
implemented projects to help provide the Lumad literacy, numeracy, and
knowledge and skills on sustainable agriculture. In 1998, Cullamat said,
they were able to establish ALCADEV (Alternative Learning Center for
Agriculture and Livelihood Development). Through this, the literacy
program in their communities became totally accessible to all children
and even adults living there.

On September 1, 2015, Cullamat recounted how their entire community was
forced to witness the execution of their beloved tribal leaders
including the Executive Director of ALCADEV. The attack happened amid a
fierce resistance of their communities, counting the five tribal groups
in Caraga, against the intrusion of large mining companies into their
ancestral lands. The attack was blamed on military and para-military
groups they bred and would sometimes deploy into communities.

Cullamat said the mining project came to their community with military
threats and harassments of their locals. “There is nothing we can do but
fight.”

She said migrants and IPs share common dreams and aspirations.

“As much as you, migrant workers all around the world are dreaming of
coming back home with your families, we share with you our dreams, for
our right to education, right to self-determination, a democratic
government, and a just society,” Eufemia told the gathered indigenous
peoples and migrant workers in Hong Kong.

The Tribal Filipino Sunday observed a similar theme and disseminated
calls urging tribal Filipino Migrants to unite, defend their land, life,
and resources, and fight for just peace.