CHR tells gov’t: Respect Lumad rights and identity in ancestral land plans

By: Jhoanna Ballaran

7 February 2018

Any plan to develop ancestral lands should not interfere with the
welfare, identity and rights of Lumads, the Commission on Human Rights
(CHR) reminded government on Wednesday.

“Recently, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte proposed the possibility of
opening the ancestral lands of Lumads to investors. While the
President’s intention is to generate economic activity towards
alleviating poverty in the Lumad area, it is vital to be circumspect
when it comes to development plans involving ancestral domains,” CHR
said in a statement.

“The State must uphold the rights and well-being of the [indigenous
cultural communities] and [indigenous peoples] development plans must
not supersede their welfare, identity, and rights but must instead
contribute to the strengthening and enhancement of their plight,” it added.

Duterte said last week that he would find investors to develop Lumad
ancestral lands in Mindanao.

This did not sit well with some indigenous communities saying such plans
would displace more Lumads from their homelands.

Lumad school Alcadev sneered at Duterte’s plan, saying that “large
mining, logging and agro-industrial corporations operate in and destroy
our ancestral lands would only further exploitation of our natural
resources which would lead to lack of food and hunger!”

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, however, clarified that Duterte
was not “forcibly” removing the Lumads from their lands, noting that
they would still be consulted about the development plan and they are
free to reject it.

“Of course, the IPs (indigenous people) will be consulted, that’s the
provision of the law. They will have to decide if they will allow
foreign investors in to begin with, he looked at the law,” Roque said in
a Palace briefing.

The CHR said that one of the duties of State—under Section 5, Article II
of the Constitution—is to “ensure the economic, social, and cultural
well-being” of ICCs (indigenous cultural communities) and IPs.

It said that any development plans must take into consideration the
rights of ownership and possession of ICCs/IPs to their ancestral
domains, which are recognized and protected under the Indigenous
Peoples’ Rights Act or Republic Act 8371.

“At the heart of this is the protection of the rights of ICCs/IPs to
their ancestral lands,” the CHR said.

“For the ICCs and IPs, ancestral lands are sacred – their very identity
and life are anchored on the land that their ancestors have nurtured and
fought for with blood and sweat,” it added.

Among the rights enshrined in the IPRA are the IP’s right of ownership;
right to develop, control, and use lands and natural resources,
including the right to negotiate the terms and conditions for the
exploration of natural resource; right to stay in the territories, which
means they cannot be relocated without their free and prior informed
consent; and right to regulate entry of migrants, among others.