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In Photo: Hoping for justice, peace and equality, Lumad children raise their hands as a conclusion to a cultural performance. |Photo by: Iona Finlay Mendoza

By Iona Finlay Mendoza

As they are being forced to leave their homes, Lumads and other indigenous groups sought for help and awareness in a forum tackling the “insensitivity” of the Philippine government and major mining companies.

The series of talks titled, “Dialogue of Life: Just Peace For All,” held on Thursday at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Engineering Conference Hall, tackled how Mindanao is rich with different resources attracting capitalists and making it a prospect business venture that affect indigenous people in the rural areas.

Guest speaker Kevin Castro, spokesperson of the National Union of Students of the Philippines, lectured that the indigenous people do not benefit from the rich minerals of their homeland, big mining companies make money out of it instead.

“…Itong mga mineral na ito ay hindi napapakinabangan ng sambayanang Pilipino,” he said. “Ang mga mineral na ito ay kinukuha lamang, sinasakop ng iilang mga dayuhang korporasyon, ng iilang mga tao na ang nais ay payamanin lamang ang kanilang mga sarili.”

He added that the mining companies are permitted by the Philippine government. In the process, the indigenous people are forced to flee their land in order for the companies to execute their business plans.

He noted that some major mining companies, such as Xstrata, are allegedly responsible for the killings of indigenous people who protest against claiming their mountains and lands.

Xstrata, a Swiss-based trans-national company, is said to be associated with the infamous ‘family Capion Massacre’ in Tampakan, Mindanao.

“Ito (the family Campion Massacre) ‘yong pagpatay mismo sa isang pamilya na nakatira doon sa Capion, isang lugar sa Mindanao,” said Castro.

Furthermore, Castro said large mining companies are responsible for the environmental plunder happening in the mountains in different parts of Mindanao.

Rius Valle of saveourschools.com took part in the forum and said that discrimination and oppression of the indigenous people are rampant.

According to him, this national oppression are the main cause for the continuance of their poverty, lack of schools, and invasion of their lands.

Valle adds that possibly the biggest hurdle to their campaign is the lack of unity among Filipinos. “Nagkaisa po yung mga mamamayang Moro, Lumad, at katutubo. Ngayon, hindi po namin mapagtatagumpayan ito kung wala po ang pagkakaisa ng buong mamamayang Pilipino.”

He stressed, “Gusto ko pong ipahayag sa lahat ng mga estudyante na kailangan po nila [indigenous people] ng tulong.”

Lakbayan is a nation-wide protest of Moro, Lumad, and other indigenous people for their right to self-determination. This year, Lakbayan started in Mindanao last October 8 and journeyed to different parts of the Philippines, particularly in Metro Manila, to gather support.

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