Lumad group to resist ‘intrusion’ into ancestral lands

2 February 2018

MANILA, Philippines — Lumads are not the root of trouble over their
ancestral lands, a Lumad leader said Friday after President Rodrigo
Duterte told representatives of indigenous peoples’ communities that he
will take charge of choosing investors to develop their land.

“It is not the Lumad who are making trouble,” Datu Jerome Succor Aba,
co-chairperson of Sandugo – Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for
Self-determination, said in a press statement. “It is your government
and the corporations that are making trouble.”

In his speech Thursday, Duterte warned the Lumads against being
influenced by the communist New People’s Army.

“They will make you fight [each other],” he said, adding the NPA will
influence them against government militia. “And those leaders… tribal
leaders that they can’t recruit because they are loyal to the
government, they will murder,” he said.

Aside from promising vocational training through the Technical Education
and Skills Development Authority, he said he would look for investors
for IP-held ancestral domain.

“I will do it myself so there won’t be any graft and corruption. I will
work… I have Cabinet members here. Secretary [Jesus] Dureza is
there… [Tesda Director General Guiling] Mamondiong,” he said in
Bisaya. “I’ll choose the investor.”

Among the areas he mentioned that he wants opened to investment are
Mount Talomo — part of the Apo-Talomo mountain range in the Davao region
— the Anda Valley Complex in Surigao del Sur and Mount Kitanglad in

“If you say you don’t want to mine, then don’t. No mines. If you say it
will pollute your area, we’ll block it,” he also said. He said, though,
that IPs who agree to have mines put up in their ancestral domains are
free to do so.

“It’s impossible not to mine. But if you say you don’t want it, I won’t
coerce you. I will ban it,” he said.

Under the law, IPs have the right to decide for themselves how their
ancestral domain will be used and developed. Activities like mining,
which some Lumad communities oppose, require free and informed prior
consent from the IP community.

However, disputes on who should represent the community and give that
consent has also led to conflict within IP groups.

Duterte admitted that the government has neglected IPs but said it has
tried to help.

“Now, you have been given ancestral domain. The problem is, you aren’t
using it,” he said Thursday.

But Aba disputed this.

“First, it is not the government who spilled blood for the IPs to have
their ancestral lands. It is their forefathers’ blood and the blood of
the leaders that were sacrificed so that the government, or at least the
Philippine Law, to recognize their right to the ancestral lands. Second,
they have cultivated their lands for it to be productive to feed their
communities and secure the future of the children by building their own
schools, which President Duterte threatened to bomb,” Aba said.

He said IPs “will continue to resist the intrusion of foreign investors
and projects” into their ancestral lands.

In 2017, Duterte threatened to bomb Lumad schools, saying they were
teaching children to rebel against he government, an allegation that the
community-run schools denied. The president later walked back his threat
and said only empty school buildings would be bombed. — Jonathan de
Santos, video by Kat Leandicho