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Philippine experience exposes human cost of development conflict

13 March 2003

Current development projects in the Philippines have failed to consider the negative impacts on indigenous communities in the territories in which they take place, often damaging the economic base of the local populace and giving rise to protest and even violent conflict. Unfettered resource exploitation has been allowed on indigenous communal lands, displacing communities, disrupting traditional sources of livelihood and raising serious questions about government policy and the actions and accountability of corporations.

A macro study, launched today, by Minority Rights Group International (MRG) and the National Federation of Indigenous Peoples Organizations in the Philippines (KAMP) highlights three examples of the detrimental effects on indigenous peoples of development projects through gold and copper mining operations, agroindustry and tourism development, and forestry management on ancestral lands. These projects have largely ignored the rights and needs of indigenous peoples and have commonly failed to allow their full participation in plans which affect their lands and livelihoods.

The result of imposed development plans has been animosity and conflict between local people and those running the projects, between the people and the government and within communities themselves. According to MRG’s study, military operations have also been mounted to enforce aggressive development strategies under the pretext of counter-insurgency campaigns, while promises made to indigenous communities to protect their rights and provide compensation have not been fulfilled.

A spokesperson for KAMP stated, ‘…communities are oftentimes coerced and suppressed and most of the time lack material and technical assistance that can only come from outside…every person is entitled to the rights embodied in the UN Declaration on Human Rights. But on the ground, one’s right to a better life should not mean trampling on other people’s rights.’

Minority Rights Group International calls upon the government of the Philippines to recognize and realize the rights of national minorities and indigenous peoples to their traditional lands, natural resources and livelihoods in accordance with international law. Development policies should be revised and ensure the rights of minorities and indigenous peoples to fully participate in the formulation, implementation and evaluation of development programmes that may affect them. Corporations must comply with human rights laws and standards and establish appropriate consultation and complaints procedures.

MRG’s macro study, ‘Development Conflict: The Philippines Experience‘ by the National Federation of Indigenous Peoples Organizations in the Philippines (KAMP), ISBN 1 897693 84 2, is published on 13 March 2003.