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As Storms Hit the Philippines, Indigenous Peoples Wait on Congress Approval

In the shadows of the typhoon that hit the Philippines lies a recent push in Congress for responses to outstanding issues stemming from the passage of the Mining Act of 1995, an Indigenous Peoples-responsive law.
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The Philippines is reeling this week from the devastation recently caused by Typhoon Nesat that hit Monday night killing at least 21 people. Now as the country prepares for a tropical storm that could turn into its second typhoon within a week Indigenous Peoples are waiting on Congress.

In the shadows of the storms hitting the country lies a recent push in Congress for responses to outstanding issues stemming from the passage of the Mining Act of 1995, an Indigenous Peoples-responsive law.

Ifugao Rep. Teddy Brawner Baguilat, chairman of the House Committee on Cultural Communities, is behind the push of a new mining law to respect Indigenous Peoples rights with a focus on claims of ancestral domains.

This push could be related to the recent passage of Peru’s law calling for consultation with Indigenous Peoples over land use.

In an article posted September 16 at Bulatlat.com Baguilat said, “In Indigenous Peoples communities, mining operations have resulted in loss of livelihood, dislocation of settlements, weakening of social systems and loss of ownership and control over land, among many other harmful effects.”

In a Bulatlat.com article from August 12, Johnny Sawadan, a spokesperson of the Cordillera People’s Alliance gave a speech to Indigenous Peoples at a rally in Manila. “Mining operations of giant companies have always been coupled with massive deployment of state soldiers,” he said. He went on to address how the armed forces are deployed to supposedly protect the citizens but that their presence only results in rights violations of the people of Cordillera.

Baguilat was also quoted as saying, “The Constitution recognizes the importance of indigenous communities. They are not only an indispensable component of the country’s culture, they also hold a databank of traditional knowledge that can help solve global problems such as climate change. Their existence, therefore, cannot be sacrificed under the pretext of economic development.”

Just as repairs are being made to homes and the communities hit by the typhoon, this push is a way to repair the way the Indigenous Peoples of the Philippines are treated.