Manila (March 8)— “These are dangerous times for indigenous women,” says Kakay Tolentino, the National Coordinator of BAI Indigenous Women’s Network.
According to the Alta-Dumagat leader, the US-China-Duterte regime’s continued adherence to neoliberal policies coupled by relentless militarization and widescale violations of our human rights and our right to self-determination pose danger to indigenous communities and indigenous women.
Tolentino, along with indigenous women and indigenous people’s rights advocates, joins the thousands of women protesting on the occasion of the Women’s Global Strike on the International Working Women’s Day 2020. Bannering the call, "BAI Strikes for Land, Rights, and Climate Justice", the indigenous women’s organization highlighted the plunder of ancestral lands and territories as a result of the Duterte government’s build, build, build program.
Among the core projects of the build, build, build is the Kaliwa-Kanan-Laiban dams.The Kaliwa dam is currently being funded by onerous loan agreements with China and is on its way to be constructed. “Duterte’s minions have railroaded this project to deceive the public in addressing the water crisis in Metro Manila at the expense of indigenous peoples,” Tolentino said. Despite the reverberating opposition from the communities especially the Dumagat-Remontado in the provinces of Quezon and Rizal, and violations of the process of the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), Duterte persistently threatened to use his “extraordinary powers” to coerce the people in accepting the dam project.
She cited that the government currently pursues other dam, mining, and land conversion projects that would displace hundreds of thousands of indigenous peoples. For instance, of the 447 approved mining applications, 230 covered ancestral territories and encroach at least 542,245 hectares of ancestral lands. In lieu of the New Clark City, the Ayta in Tarlac and Pampanga are forcibly being driven out of their lands, despite the absence of FPIC.
For Tolentino, such aggressive plunder of ancestral lands and territories not only displaces indigenous peoples but also destroys the environment. “It will aggravate the climate crisis as these ‘projects’ destroy our natural ecosystems being harnessed by indigenous peoples.”
The indigenous woman leader also reiterated that government resorted to fascism to instill fear and force communities to adhere to these destructive projects. “Brazen attacks against community opposition have been launched by the military and police to silence us,” she said, noting the worsening red-tagging, harassment, filing of trumped up charges, arrest and detention and worse, extrajudicial killings among the ranks of on indigenous peoples in the country.
Tolentino mentioned the killings of women Lumad leaders Beverly Geronimo and Bai Leah Tumbalang, both opposed to mining projects in their communities as clear pictures of state-sponsored terrorism carried out with impunity. “Now that the revisions to the Anti-Terrorism Law are being railroaded in the Philippine Congress, more indigenous women who staunchly defend ancestral lands and advocate the right to self-determination might be subjects for further attack.”
Yet, in these dark times, Tolentino stated, “the courage exemplified by our ancestors, our mothers, and our sisters are our beacon of hope.” The stories of Ina Petra Macli-ing and Ina Endena Cogasi in the Cordilleras and Bai Bibyaon Ligkayan Bigkay of Pantaron range proved the power of indigenous women’s collective strength in holding the government and the corporations accountable for plunder.
“That is the reason why we continue to struggle and march with women from other sectors. To carry on and to defend the future of our children and communities,” she concluded. #
Kakay Tolentino, National Coordinator, BAI Indigenous Women’s Network