On September 25, 2022, there were renewed calls on various media outlets to protect and save the mountains of Sierra Madre from the impending construction of Kaliwa Dam amid the onslaught of Super Typhoon Karding on much of Luzon.
Since time immemorial, Sierra Madre has served as a natural barrier from the wrath of typhoons barreling towards the island. The mountains’ rugged slopes mitigate strong winds and its forests absorb heavy rains . Unknown to many, the Sierra Madre mountain range is also home to the Dumagat-Remontado indigenous group. Under Republic Act 8371, also known as the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act of 1997, the government should be at the forefront of upholding the rights of Indigenous Peoples. A specific provision of the law expects the state to “protect the rights of ICCs/IPs to their ancestral domains.”
It also places ancestral land under Tribal Care, which means that anyone who plans to construct infrastructure in the area must first secure a free, prior, and informed consent from the title-holders. However, amid several land-grabbing cases, most prominently the construction of Kaliwa Dam in the General Nakar-Infanta Area, IP leaders say that the government, supposedly at the forefront of defending these communities, has become the first to violate their rights . This is a big threat to the tribes, as this form of land encroachment entails that their community will be internally displaced from the area, essentially taking away their homeland.
For this year’s installment of NEEDS, we join the chorus of voices of indigenous peoples, THEIR LAND IS NOT FOR SALE. To the IPs, land is not merely a property, it has a cultural, social, and spiritual significance that binds their community together. Their land is where their identity stands its ground. Moreover, this call is timely and relevant not only because the Sierra Madre has once again put forth its significance in the midst of calamities, but also because we are about to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act last October 29.
As an organization in service to the provinces of Quezon and Aurora, it is only right that we engage, mobilize, and galvanize the youth through this week-long event in hopes of transforming them into propagators of our call to awaken the consciousness of the people in the name of defending the rights of the Indigenous Peoples within our provinces and across the nation. Hence the theme, Not For Sale: Galvanizing the Youth in Defending Indigenous Rights to Ancestral Domains.
Join us this November 26 on the NEEDS official Facebook page.
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