By Hermie Garcia, The Philippine Reporter
The Philippine Reporter: Why are you touring Canada? What is your mission?
Pya Macliing Malayao: I am here in Canada as I was invited by KAIROS to be a panelist at the Gendered Impacts of Resource Extraction/Mining symposium in Vancouver. I had the opportunity to meet other Indigenous women leaders from Canada, Ecuador and Mexico who are waging similar struggles to protect land, life and resources. For two weeks, I was able to tell about the issues of the indigenous peoples (IP) in the country and gather wider support for the ongoing struggles of the communities in the grassroots to assert our collective rights to our ancestral land and self-determination, and to hear about the IP in Canada who are also facing threats to their land and life and build solidarity networks with them.
TPR: Tell us more about your organization. What are its main objectives?
PMM: Katribu Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas is a national alliance of indigenous peoples organizations in the Philippines. We are formerly known as KAMP, and was established in 1987 as a response to the escalating violation of our individual and collective rights and the impending threat of massive dislocation posed by large-scale destructive projects of the government. Our main objective is to bring to the national and international arena the issues, demands, and struggles of IP communities, strengthen the unity of IP throughout the country, gather support from advocates and be in solidarity with other oppressed people.
TPR: We’ve heard a lot about the killings and repression of Lumads in Mindanao recently. Give us a brief update. Is it subsiding? Is it escalating? Why?
PMM: Killings and human rights violations have been escalating since 2013 when more than 50% of the Armed Forces of the Philippines troops were deployed in Mindanao, which is part of the Oplan Bayanihan policy of the Aquino Government. They have been operating mostly in lumad communities, which include the formation and training of bandit paramilitary groups as part of their killing machines. From July 2010 – end of September 2015, there have been 63 lumad killed. Because of these atrocities, at least 2000 Lumads have forcibly evacuated are currently in evacuation centers in Surigao del Sur, Davao, Bukidnon and North Cotabato. It is also part of the plan to clear the lands from communities and resistance against large scale “development” projects and to allow the entry of mining companies to exploit the rich mineral deposits. These include at least 19 mining operations owned or funded by Canadian corporations.
It is also part of the plan to clear the lands from communities and resistance against large scale “development” projects and to allow the entry of mining companies to exploit the rich mineral deposits. These include at least 19 mining operations owned or funded by Canadian corporations.
TPR: What are the significant actions taken by those who oppose this repression? Which groups are active in the campaign to stop these killings?
PMM: There are many indigenous peoples groups and advocates in the Philippines and abroad who have supported the demands of the lumad communities. At least 73 organizations from 14 countries in Asia, Pacific, and Europe, have signed a petition to the Philippine government, while other petitions are still being gathered globally. The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines based in Canada is working on an Open Letter to Pres. BS Aquino to stop the systematic attacks on the Lumads – signed by prominent and concerned Canadians. Back home, different local government units in the Philippines have been directly supporting the evacuees, and have been coming out with resolutions in support of the demands of the lumad. The Stop the Killings of Indigenous Peoples Network, where Katribu leads as the campaign secretariat, is gathering support and resources through discussions with churches, academe, professionals, and personalities. The Manilakbayan (Journey of people of Mindanao) composed of around 700 people (mostly IP) are on their way to Manila to push for their demands (Stop the Attacks, Support the Struggles)
PMM: The UN has issued statements expressing their concern on the displacement of communities, the existence of paramilitary groups, and the killings, based on the realities on the ground as opposed to the reports of the Philippine government. They are now calling for the immediate investigation and action to these incidents. It has been a demand of the IP for the government to give a formal invitation to the UN Special Rapporteurs (on IP rights, on Extra-judicial killings, and on Human rights defenders) for them to be able to conduct official country visits to the Philippines to look unto these cases.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons visited the Lumad sanctuary in Davao City last July, and urged the Philippine government to “give greater attention to addressing the causes of displacement whether it be due to the militarization of their areas or due to development projects.”
Last September, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has also conducted a dialogue with Katribu and the victims and their family, the survivors and the witnesses of the state terrorism in Mindanao, and had committed to write a more comprehensive statement on the issue aside from the new releases that their mandate has already released.
TPR: What specifically do you expect to accomplish in your north American tour?
PMM: To put more pressure on the Philippine government to immediately act on the demands of the IP in the Philippines: Arrest and Prosecute the Perpetrators; Disarm and Dismantle the Paramilitary Groups; Pullout the Military from the IP Territories; and Stop Oplan Bayanihan and the so-called development projects which favor foreign corporations and the local elites;
Arrest and Prosecute the Perpetrators; Disarm and Dismantle the Paramilitary Groups; Pullout the Military from the IP Territories; and Stop Oplan Bayanihan and the so-called development projects which favor foreign corporations and the local elites;
To gather support for the struggles and journey of the indigenous communities in the Philippines;
To establish links and relations with IPs in Canada and contribute to the widening of the international Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-determination and Liberation.
TPR: What is your message to the Filipino communities, peoples in U.S. and Canada, and the solidarity and progressive forces in north America and the world?
PMM: To the Filipino community here in Canada – get involved! What is happening in the Philippines continues to affect you as well. Know more about the issues and discuss it with others; be part of organizations and networks to have a more consolidated action and response; visit our communities and be part of the continuing struggle of the indigenous peoples for our collective rights to ancestral land and self-determination, and against neoliberal and oppressive policies.
Neoliberal policies such as the TPP and other trade agreements are all geared to exploit and plunder the resources of the global South – killing our people and pushing us to deeper impoverishment.
To the progressive forces and allies: Neoliberal policies such as the TPP [Trans-Pacific Partnership] and other trade agreements are all geared to exploit and plunder the resources of the global South – killing our people and pushing us to deeper impoverishment. We need your solidarity and support!
(KATRIBU is the largest alliance of indigenous peoples in the Philippines advancing the rights of indigenous peoples to ancestral lands and to self-determination.)
This article was originally published in the Philippine Reporter dated October 23, 2015.