MANILA — The decision to allow the entry of investors into indigenous peoples’ (IPs) ancestral domains in Mindanao will still depend on the Lumad, Malacañang said Monday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this statement following reports that President Rodrigo Duterte plans to develop ancestral domain lands with the help of investors to pave the way for the increase of opportunity for work among the IPs.
Duterte bared his plan during last week’s Indigenous People’s Leaders Summit organized by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Davao City.
Roque clarified that Duterte “did not intend to ask the Lumad to relocate.”
“I do not read din the transcript that he asked them to move. What I read is he will ask investors to come in and my reading is that because you need to encourage economic activity in Lumad’s territory,” Roque said in a Palace briefing.
“He (Duterte) is not forcibly removing them from ancestral domains. Let’s not claim a monopoly of knowledge of what the Lumad communities’ problems are,” he added.
Roque explained that the law states that Lumad communities can allow economic activity to take place in their territory subject to the terms and conditions they may impose.
“What he (Duterte) meant perhaps by reclamation is, if there are investors coming in, physical relocation but does not mean they will be expelled from ancestral domains,” Roque said, noting that ancestral domains are not limited to 100 square meters.
He clarified that it was only “a suggestion” of the President and assured that the IPs will be consulted as it is in the provision of the law.
“They will have to decide if they will allow foreign investors to begin with if you look at the law. So when the President has a suggestion, that means it will take place within the context of the law,” he added.
The Palace Spokesperson also noted that IPs can also refuse foreign investors.
“They (Lumad) can refuse if they don’t want, certainly. Kung ayaw nila magpapasok ng investors, nasa kanila yan (If they don’t want to allow the entry of investors, it’s up to them),” Roque said.
NPA violating Lumad rights
Roque shrugged off reports claiming Duterte’s suggestion to facilitate the entry of investors was “tantamount to ethnocide” noting that the only violators of Lumad rights were the New People’s Army (NPA).
“The President’s reaction to that is the ones violating the rights of the Lumad are the NPA because they are forcibly conscripting the Lumads into the NPA,” Roque explained, adding that the Lumads “had no choice” as they were doing it under the barrel of a gun.
Roque said that Duterte’s solution to the NPA problem is to create economic opportunities because poverty reduction will empower Lumad communities and drive away NPA members when they see increased progress.
Meanwhile, he pointed out that Duterte has been a long-time resident of Mindanao and will even seek correction of the historical injustice being committed to Lumads through the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).