MANILA – Advocates renewed calls to end killings of indigenous peoples (IPs) and curtail mining in ancestral lands, as United Nations (UN) experts warned that their conditions, specifically with regards to education, have not significantly improved nearly ten years since it declared a need to recognize natives' rights.
They spoke in time for the celebration of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on August 9.
While the Philippines has a law recognizing the right of IPs to manage their resources, this is being violated by mining projects and the government's counterinsurgency campaigns, said Lumad leader Timuay Alim Bandara.
"We are victims of war, and victims of peace," Bandara said in a statement released by IPs policy research and education group Tebtebba.
In Baguio City, the Cordillera People's Alliance marched on Tuesday morning to call on the Duterte administration to focus on positive change for Philippine IPs.
The group demanded the president make peace with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines to end violence near their communities, provide social services to IPs, and uphold their rights to their ancestral lands.
In a message released by the UN, Albert Barume of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) emphasized the need for indigenous children to be educated, as this is the key to addressing human rights violations, alleviating poverty, and creating opportunities for advancement.
UN Special Rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, a human rights activist and member of the Cordillera-based Kankana-ey, added that governments must work with indigenous peoples to address the "damaging history of colonization, marginalization, and discrimination experienced by indigenous peoples."
Their cultural knowledge should be preserved, she said, as the loss of indigenous knowledge with regards to ecosystem management and sustainable use of resources can help preserve the environment.
Meanwhile, Senator Loren Legarda expressed support in a statement for the protection of IPs, to "strengthen their part in nation building."
Legarda previously filed a bill aiming to protect the traditional cultural heritage of IPs, including their art.
Environmental group Kalikasan People's Network also said in a statement that they support the refiling of the People's Mining Bill, which will give indigenous communities a part of the income of companies conducting mining operations in ancestral territories.