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HK OFWs launched Coalition to Defend Land, Life, and Resources on Tribal Filipino Sunday

| November 2, 2017

TribalFilipinoSunday 2017

Filipino migrants from indigenous peoples’ groups marked a historic celebration of Tribal Filipino Sunday (TFS) on the 29th of October this year at the Edinburgh Place in Central with the launching of “Defend Land, Life, and Resources” (DLLR) Coalition Hong Kong, initiated by Abra Tinguian Ilocano Society (ATIS-HK), Cordillera Alliance (CORALL-HK) and United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK).

More than 700 tribal Filipino migrants groups and advocates joined in organizing the event such as the Lumads from Mindanao through the Mindanao (HK) Workers Federation and Mangyans of Mindoro through Occidental Mindoro Association and Igorots from the Cordillera region with Mountain Province Federation, Benguet Federation, and Kalinga Province Hong Kong Workers Association.

Having six other migrants’ groups in the TFS Organizing Committee was a breakthrough. These include Benguet Federation, Kalinga Province HK Workers Association, Pinatud a Saleng Ti Umili, Occidental Mindoro HK Workers Federation, Mountain Province Federation HK, and Suyo Ilocos Sur Association. A festival of ethic songs and pattong filled the event as each organization highlighted the issues prevailing in their homeland.

The history of forming the DLLR Coalition began early this year with the launching of “No to Mining Exploration in Cervantes” petition signing campaign against the Cordillera Exploration Company (CEXI) led by Suyo Ilocos Sur Association (SISA HK) and Cervantes Organization. Meanwhile, Abra Tingguian Ilocano Society (ATIS HK) was starting their “Save the Abra River” campaign while leaders and concerned migrants from Kalinga Province Hong Kong Workers Association (KAHPWA) were protesting against anti-hydro dam projects in their communities. Later, the groups coordinated with the Cordillera Peoples Alliance and Defend Ilocos Network to Save the Environment for a joint campaign to defend their land, life and resources.

Also a first in the history of the Tribal Filipino Sunday event was the participation of Mindanao through Keynote Speaker Eufemia Cullamat, a Lumad leader from the Manobo tribe in Surigao del Sur. She is a council member of MAPASU or the Malahutayong Pakigbigsog alang sa Sumusunod (Persevering Struggle for the Next Generation) and KASALO or Kahugpongan sa Lumad Organization.

Eufemia related that since the 1980s, the Lumads have repeatedly evacuated from their community in Lianga, Surigao del Sur due to bombings from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that protect foreign mining companies. People, especially women were frightened, many were afraid to go out of their houses after they saw people getting killed, tortured or harassed. She said soldiers told them that they were looking for members of the New People’s Army (NPA) but actually targeted civilians. Several human rights violations perpetrated by the AFP have been committed. But until now, nothing has changed, we are still neglected by the government, according to her.

She shared that it was through the help of Tribal Filipino Program in Surigao del Sur or TRFPSS and the Church, Diocese of Tandag that MAPASU was formed. They were given literacy, numeracy, and sustainable agriculture program until they were able to establish ALCADEV (Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development) in 1998. This has made the literacy program in their communities a hundred percent accessible to all children and even adults.

The strong resistance of five tribal groups in Caraga against the entry of large mining companies in their ancestral lands resulted to constant military threats and harassments in their communities, according to her. Worst of all, they witnessed the execution of their beloved tribal leaders including the Executive Director of ALCADEV on September 1, 2015.

“There is nothing we can do but fight! We share with you our dreams and aspirations. Our dreams of the right to education, right to self-determination, a democratic government, and a just society. As much as you, migrant workers all around the world, are dreaming of coming back home with your families. Which is why we are also sharing with all our struggles, back home and overseas! “, Eufemia concluded.

Definitely, the TFS theme, “Tribal Filipino Migrants, Unite! Defend our Land, Life, and Resources! Fight for Just Peace!” is an urgent call not only to migrants from indigenous peoples’ communities but to all Filipinos to resist extrajudicial killings, imperialist plunder, national oppression, human rights violation, government neglect, militarization and other social and political concerns of the people###.

Editor’s note: contributed video clips by Genie Sacla




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