By Floro L. Mercene
Eighteen years after the Philippines promised to protect the rights of our indigenous peoples through a special law, they remain abused, neglected, and discriminated against.
Representing 14 percent of our country’s more than 100 million inhabitants, their “ancestral domain” has been coveted by real estate developers, loggers, and miners.
These tribal people were pushed out of their land, depriving them of their constitutional guarantee.
In February this year, President Rodrigo Duterte was denounced by a lumad group for saying he plans to invite investors to their ancestral domain to exploit mining and plantation possibilities.
The lumad say this would surely result in massive displacement of their tribe.
I mention this incident because these tribal groups, from Luzon to Mindanao, have always been the unfortunate victims of exploiters. The results have been continued resentment and clashes by the ethnic community against the government.
Taiwan seems it had been able to address the problem.
Shortly after her election in 2016, Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen offered profuse apologies to their tribal people, “for 400 years of neglect and abuse.”
“I express to you our deepest apology. For the four centuries of pain and mistreatment you have endured, I apologize to you on behalf of the government,” she said.
There are 16 officially recognized indigenous tribes living throughout Taiwan.
Taiwan’s indigenous groups were the first to settle the land thousands of year ago. They were there before the Dutch colonized the island in the mid-1800s by importing Chinese laborers.Then the Chinese Han came. For the next 50 years, Japan was the colonizer, until the end of WWII in 1945.
What happened to indigenous people in Taiwan is similar to what happened to the Indians in the US and aborigines in Australia. Outsiders came in, declared the land their own, and forced aside native populations.
When foreigners started coming from the Chinese mainland, they pushed the people who were already in Taiwan, It was an era of displacement and disenfranchisement that President Tsai was apologizing for.
(To be continued)