#ReclaimLumadLand: Continue the Lianga Martyrs’ struggle for land, environment, and justice!

September 1, 2016

Statement of solidarity on the first anniversary of the Lianga Massacre and the indigenous Lumad’s return to their communities in Surigao del Sur province, Philippines, 01 September 2016

By Kalikasan PNE

A full year bereft of home, land, and justice. Such is the harrowing experience of the indigenous Lumad people in the province of Surigao del Sur, situated on the northeastern section of Mindanao region in the Philippines. Today, the prospect of their return to their ancestral lands may finally come to fruition.

Back in the first of September, 2015, over 3,000 Lumad were forcibly evacuated from the towns of Lianga and San Agustin situated in the heart of the Andap Valley Complex, a land corridor highly mineralized with coal, gold, and copper. The Lumads’ exodus was triggered when Lumad school director Emerito Samarca and Lumad leaders Dionel Campos and Aurelio Sinzo were massacred by the Magahat-Bagani Force, a paramilitary group attached to the 36th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.

Military and paramilitary forces continue to violently repress grassroots communities that oppose extractive projects. The Lumad of Lianga and San Agustin face increasing militarization for standing up against attempts of coal mining companies to encroach into their lands. Coal mine interests cover at least 58,000 hectares in their entire region of CARAGA—the largest coal reserve in the country.

The military has justified its unabated militarization of Lumad lands as part of its counter-insurgency campaign against the civil war waged by the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed and political wings, the New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP). This mandate is used to secure so-called vital installations and other flagship projects of government and corporations such as big mines, plantations, mega dams, and other big foreign business interests in the countryside.

The increasing military presence in communities has intensified human rights violations to frontline defenders. Of all political killings inflicted to environmental activists in the Philippines recorded since 2001, 52.1 percent is suspected to involve military forces. . Killings recorded in the Mindanao region alone account for 53.1 percent of the total, and a staggering 77.1 percent are involved in mining issues.

Previous administrations failed to realize the futility of the ‘militarist solution’ to end the people’s resistances and the armed revolutionary movement. So long as big business interests are systematically inflicting injustices upon the Lumad and other grassroots communities, the people will rise up against corporations and their lackeys in government, even amidst impunity.

After a year of remaining in an evacuation camp in the provincial capitol of Tandag, the defiance of the Lumad and the broad national and international solidarity that it has garnered has finally been heard by the new Duterte administration.

With the historic resumption of the peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the CPP-NPA-NDFP focusing on addressing the historic social injustices that give rhyme and reason to revolution, both sides have already declared a ceasefire and have drawn an accelerated timeline in forging agreements on meaningful social, economic, and political reforms. Both the Duterte administration and the CPP-NPA-NDFP also share a common stand against environmentally destructive projects.

The momentum now is clearly on the Filipino people’s growing aspirations for a genuine peace based on social, economic, and environmental justice.

The Lumad of Lianga and San Agustin will reclaim their ancestral lands on September 2, and will mobilize together with solidarity groups in a Hungos-Hudyaka (Work-Celebrate), a cooperative effort in rebuilding their farms, homes, and schools. President Rodrigo Duterte himself promised that he will personally supervise the safe return of the Lumad in Surigao del Sur.

We say ‘enough is enough!’ to a year of landlessness and injustice for the Lumad. We share our solidarity with our Lumad brothers and sisters in their arduous struggle to assert their collective rights to land, livelihood, environment, and self-determination.

We unite with their continuing demands to bring to justice the paramilitary and military troops involved in the murder of the Lianga Martyrs, and the dismantling of the Magahat-Bagani and other militias that militarize the lands of the Lumad. We join the calls to ensure the pull-out of military and paramilitary troops occupying their ancestral lands, as well as the coal mining and other big business interests that seek to plunder their natural resources.

We look forward to the advancement of the GRP-NDFP peace talks to resolve the social, economic, and environmental injustices in which armed conflict is rooted. Most importantly, we commit ourselves to continue the legacy of the heroic Martyrs of Lianga by pursuing radical reforms in policies and governance to stop the systematic attacks against our people and environment.

Padayon sa Pakigbisog!

Reference: Clemente Bautista, National Coordinator – Kalikasan PNE – 0917 562 6824