The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines Episcopal Commission on Indigenous Peoples (CBCP-ECIP) has called on the government to heed the call of indigenous peoples (IP) in recognizing their rights, ancestral domains, and self-determination.”
ECIP chairman Bishop Valentin Dimoc asked the government to stop development aggressions and policies that adversely affect the lives of IPs in many parts of the country.
According to the Bontoc Lagawe prelate, indigenous Filipinos, which comprise 10 to 20 percent of the country’s total population, continue to suffer due to business interests that “erode and disrupt their life, culture, and spirituality”.
“Government policies and indifference of responsibility bearers continue to fortify the unjust societal structures and have exacerbated existing inequities,” Dimoc said in a CBCP News post.
He said social exclusion and discrimination of IPs has also become widespread “to the point of posing a threat to social harmony and peace.”
Dimoc lamented the continued operations of large-scale mining in IP areas even if communities already rejected and opposed them.
These mining operations, he said, resulted in not just damage to IP communities and culture, but also gross human rights violations and even deaths to those who oppose them.
“Responsibility bearers in government are blind and deaf to the call and cries of indigenous people who depend on their agricultural lands and forests for their sustenance,” Dimoc said.
The bishops also noted the long-standing armed conflict between government rebel groups that “had a profound effect” on the IP communities.
With the current government policy against insurgents, the bishop said that more IPs are becoming victims.
“IPs may find it attractive to say yes to the recruitment efforts of rebel groups simply because the government failed to defend and protect their indigenous people’s rights,” Dimoc said.
The prelate also called on the church to continue the “dialogue of life and faith” with the IPs and its programs and services for them.