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Rights of 14 Million Indigenous Filipinos Must Be Honored and Protected – Legarda

August 9, 2010

SENATOR LOREN LEGARDA, CHAIRWOMAN OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON CULTURAL COMMUNITIES TODAY MARKED THE CELEBRATION OF THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE WORLD’S INDIGENOUS PEOPLE BY DELIVERING A SPEECH IN THE FLOOR OF THE SENATE ABOUT THE INHERENT AND NATURAL RIGHTS OF OUR MORE THAN 14 MILLION INDIGENOUS BROTHERS AND SISTERS THAT THEY ARE STILL FIGHTING FOR.
“For the right of education – let us remember the deprivation experienced by our indigenous cultural communities and how we must work to provide more schools, teachers and more means of preserving and transmitting their customary and indigenous knowledge, which form the basis of their identity and cultural integrity.”
“For the right to life – let us not forget that laws have been passed not to award, but to acknowledge their rightful ownership of their ancestral lands since time immemorial.”
Legarda explained, “Not only do these lands serve to give them food; the land itself is what gives them life. Let us work to help them fulfill this right and to give them support in the sustainable development of natural resources and their ancestral lands and domain.”
“For the right to self–determination – let us remember that they have the right to freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development using their customary laws.”
Legarda added, “They also have a right to take part in decision-making in matters affecting their rights and the obtainment of their free, prior and informed consent in the development or extractive projects to be implemented in their area.”
“There is also their right to security and liberty – let us remember the lands that they have been dispossessed of during the Spanish and American colonization up to the dispossession they are still experiencing from mining and other development projects implemented in their areas today.”
“Let us remember the violence inflicted upon them and how their lives are threatened with each bullet fired during war.”
“Let us work to protect them from the increasing militarization of their lands and to protect against and provide them support, in the event of displacement and forced relocation due to development projects as well as natural and man-made disasters.”
To her colleagues in the Chamber, Legarda also stressed, “As regards to their right to be free from discrimination – may we push for legislation to prevent religious and ethnic discrimination, not only in the workplace, but also in society and fulfill our international commitments, particularly the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
Legarda emphasized, “In the world today, the word “indigenous” should not even exist, for we are one and the same – we are Filipinos.”
“Let us remember that there is nothing that distinguishes us, from the peoples that quietly live the way they and their ancestors have always known, except for our own willingness to open ourselves to our differences, “Legarda concluded.