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Lumad and Bangsamoro accuse Philippines government of failing minorities

15 March 2004

The government of the Philippines has been questioned over its policies in education and land rights and the negative effects on indigenous Lumad and Bangsamoro Muslim communities struggling to maintain traditional ways of life, culture and religious practices. Failure to recognize and assist ‘alternative’ yet culturally appropriate learning systems, for example, has been blamed for contributing to a process of cultural assimilation. Globalization and corporate interests were also highlighted as amongst the threats to the land rights of the Lumad and the causes of their poverty.

Mucha Sim Quiling Arquiza from Sulu island of Mindanao representing the Asian Muslim Action Network in the Philippines (AMANPHIL), was outspoken in her call for the government to recognize an alternative education system relevant to marginalized, excluded and vulnerable minority groups such as the Bangsamoro and ‘inspired by the people’s culture, history and life-experiences, in our indigenous tradition of education as a process of life-long learning, community-based, development-oriented and holistic’. She suggested that a government insistence on integrationist policies was in fact resulting in the assimilation of minorities into the dominant majority culture.

According to Mucha Sim Quiling Arquiza, unless the Philippine government recognize alternative and appropriate learning systems, it ‘will continually be guilty of violating the Lumad and Bangsamoro people’s rights as minorities, namely, their right to exercise their culture and preserve and perpetuate the same to the younger generation. It shall be violating the minorities’ right to participate in designing their development and their right to non-discrimination.’

Nena Undag, a representative of the Higaonon tribe of Northern Mindanao also spoke on behalf of twelve peoples’ organizations on the situation facing minorities in the region. The Higaonon people are part of the twenty-two Indigenous Peoples of Mindanao, otherwise known as Lumads. Ms Undag particularly highlighted the issue of land rights and the threats to indigenous culture and rights in the region brought about by displacement and lack of land tenure.

The influx of global capital and multinational companies into the Higaonon ancestral lands to establish fruit and palm oil plantations has been a major problem facing the tribal groups. In 1997 the Indigenous People Right Act (IPRA 8371) was enacted, and was seen by some as a positive step towards ensuring indigenous rights since it allowed communities to apply for Certificates of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT). However this has failed to be effectively implemented for some communities despite positive efforts on the part of the government. Long delays in land titles being awarded and a costly application process have been restrictive and to date no Higaonon community has been awarded a CADT. According to Nena Undag, while delays continue, big business interests are moving in fast and with government consent.

Notes for editors

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