10 December 2014. Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, is deeply concerned by the systematic attacks against land and indigenous people’s rights activists in Mindanao, the second largest and southernmost major island in the Philippines.
The highly populated island (over 21 million people) is rich in mineral deposits of copper, gold, silver and nickel, and is host to more than 30 multinational mining companies from 13 countries, including the United States, Australia, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Local civil society groups are alarmed at the complicity of corporate conglomerates in the forceful evictions and displacement of indigenous communities, and land rights and indigenous people’s rights activists operate under extreme threat.
Mindanao holds a third of the Philippines’ total estimated mineral wealth of US $840 billion dollars. As of December 31, 2013, the Philippine Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) listed over 291,000 hectares classified as the mining tenement of Mindanao. This consists of large and medium scale mines which overlap with agricultural lands being tilled by farmers or are part of the ancestral domain of Mindanao’s indigenous peoples, the Lumad.
“Upon assuming power in 2010, President Benigno S. Aquino III’s administration promised to improve governance and pledged to institutionalise respect for human rights,” said Semanur Karaman, Policy and Research Officer at CIVICUS. Sadly, these commitments remain unrealised in the eyes of local civil society observers who blame Oplan Bayanihan, a radical counter insurgency policy, for justifying systematic attacks against peaceful activists, unwarranted surveillance, arbitrary arrests and other forms of intimidation against community leaders.”
From July 2010 to November 2014, CIVICUS member Karapatan has documented 226 cases of extrajudicial killings, 26 enforced disappearances, 104 torture cases, and more than 46,000 cases of forceful evacuations due to military operations.
In November in Manila, the nation’s capital, more than 300 peasants, indigenous peoples’ and human rights defenders from Mindanao, started a 3-week long peaceful camp out named “Manilakbayan ng Mindanao”(People’s Journey for Food and Peace in Mindanao). The intention of the camp out was to bring the military occupation of Mindanao and the attacks against human rights defenders under international scrutiny.
CIVICUS urges the government of the Philippines to end impunity for members of the security forces and to put in place public consultation mechanisms with land and indigenous activists to protect the economic, social and cultural rights of the people of Mindanao.