Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Article excerpt

In a report to the UN last year, the Indigenous Peoples Rights Monitor cited the alarming rate of violations perpetrated among our indigenous communities. It calls on the government to address these grievances, citing the provisions of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act or IPRA enacted 13 years ago. An example of gross violation of rights is the implementation of the National Internal Security Plan on indigenous peoples which perpetuates military operations and persecution of IP activists. Many communities especially that of the Lumads have been subjected to forced evacuations. Militarization and at least 133 cases of extrajudicial killings, the Report states, are the result of entry of mining and other extractive industries.

The IPRA (which also created the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples) gives legal recognition to the claims of communities to land that they have occupied since time immemorial. As the Center for Living Heritage notes, it is an "attempt to restore the legal status of the first peoples and to right 500 years of historical error." In 1997, there were already 12 million belonging to 110 ethnic groups.

The Kapatiran Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) and the Entrepreneurs Volunteers Assistance Charity Foundation on (KKFI) are two of such NGOs which have successfully implemented initiatives that address IPRA concerns through sustainable education and community empowerment programs. KKFI started working with the Aytas of Sitio Banawen in San Felipe, Zambales since the Pinatubo eruption in 1991. As some may remember, several sitios and barangays were literally buried under lahar. Banawen was one of them. The Aytas who were evacuated and moved from place to place felt uncomfortable in a situation of complete dependency and decided to return to their sitio.

This was when KKFI came in, provided temporary provision of daily sustenance through a food for work program, and enhanced their skills in managing their farms and forest resources. It also helped the Aytas pursue their ancestral domain claim. Dean Lito Manalili, program consultant, describes the role of KKFI as a "bridge," a "pagtutulay," in bringing the Ayta community back to normalcy after the devastation brought about by the earthquake. …