The National Commission for the Culture and the Arts (NCCA) has condemned the recent killing of three tribal leaders in Lianga town in Surigao del Sur.
The NCCA called on government agencies to protect the lumad or indigenous people (IP) from mining and logging activities that are encroaching into their tribal lands.
Felipe De Leon Jr., NCCA chairman, said the lumad who long for peace and be able to live in their resource-rich communities have become innocent victims of development aggression.
It was on September 1 when lumad school director Emerito Samarca, Dionel Campos, and Juvello Sinzo were killed by a para-military group.
De Leon said the three are not members of the New People’s Army but staunch defender of Manobo culture and their ancestral lands.
“Their deaths were but few of the many lumad deaths that have sprung from paramilitary violence in Mindanao,” he said.
“We are calling for the government’s outright response and action towards the unjust killing of the IP leaders in Mindanao and in other parts of the country,” he added.
De Leon said the members of the Manobo tribe asked for help from the commission.
Meanwhile, NCCA legal consultant lawyer Trixie Cruz Angeles underscored the need to protect the indigenous tribes who are affected and displaced by development activities.
Angeles said Aetas in Boracay faced a similar dilemma some years back with the commercialization aimed to boost tourism on the island.
She explained that the Aetas, along with their lore and culture, completely disappeared from Boracay because they were always on the run.
According to Angeles, what happened in Boracay is also now happening in the cultural communities of Surigao del Sur and other provinces in Mindanao.
“We are going to exercise our mandate and in this case we have place the Lumads or indigenous peoples in the center,” she stressed, adding that the NCCA has the mandate under Republic Act 10066, including the deputization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to protect cultural communities.
Also included, she added, are efforts to protect sacred spaces that house the tangible cultural heritage of indigenous cultural communities like caves and cemeteries.
“That will have an impact on mining claims, on logging activities and possible expansion of agricultural estates that encroached into ancestral domain or into lands that are used or traditionally used by the indigenous cultural communities,” Angeles further said.
The NCCA, she said, has already manifested with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources that they be included in the list of agencies that would give clearances like the environmental certificate clearance.