By Raïssa Robles
Much of the conflict in the Philippines arise from squabbles over land and how to use it.
For decades, wealthy and the powerful personalities have controlled land use. Thanks to them, many of our mountains are nearly bald from logging.
And now, they are training their sights on the valuable ore lying beneath vast tracts of land. Many of these areas happen to be collectively owned by indigenous communities.
Here is my latest story on the battle over land, which appeared today in South China Morning Post (HK):
Relatives of executed Philippine land rights activists hope campaign for justice will gain ally in President Duterte
Activists claim current laws governing mining and the rights of indigenous people contain gaping loopholes that firms exploit.
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 July, 2016, 12:17am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 July, 2016, 12:16am
When 18-year-old Michelle Campos last saw her father, Dionel, they had little time to chat. He was busy with an uncle’s wake and Michelle was caught up celebrating her school foundation day.
“The only thing papa told me was to do well in school,” she told the South China Morning Post. “No matter what happens, I should continue my studies.”
The next day during class, news reached her that her father had been killed. The gruesome details she learned later.
Before dawn on September 1, 2015 some 20 heavily armed men swooped on the village of Diatagon in Surigao del Sur. Two community leaders were singled out for execution. Dionel was one of them. He was shot in the face, the back of his head blown off.
Michelle’s uncle, Juvello Sinzo, a tribal chief, was also shot dead after his bones were broken. Later, the school director Emerito Samarca was found dead, his throat slashed from ear to ear.
One of the armed men – identified as belonging to Magahat-Bagani, a paramilitary force – shouted at terrified residents that the killings would not have happened if the leaders had signed the consent form to allow mining to operate in the community, according to Dr Natividad Castro, the area coordinator for Karapatan, a human rights group.
The Philippine army denied any role in the deaths but branded the village a communist-controlled enclave.
The three slain men were among the 25 Filipinos killed last year for defending their land, Global Witness said in its latest report, “On Dangerous Ground” . The London-based NGO documented 185 such killings worldwide. Brazil led the list with 50 deaths, followed by the Philippines (33), Colombia (26), Peru and Nicaragua (12 each).
“Major drivers were mining (42 deaths), agribusiness (20), logging (15) and hydropower (15),” the Global Witness report said.
Nearly a year later, Dionel Campos’ killers have not been arrested. Michelle, though, is “more optimistic” of resolution under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Duterte – a student of Jose Maria Sison, who founded the Communist Party of the Philippines – has vowed to end decades of rebellion with a peace agreement. He has warned miners: “Making money out of the precious metals of the earth that belongs to the people, you have to do it right. If you can’t do it right, get out.”
To read the rest, please click on this link.