By SHAIRA PANELA
PARIS, France– “I’ll come home just in time for the Christmas vacation,” Bayang Ogan said in the vernacular.
A passionate advocate of indigenous peoples rights and environmental issues, Ogan stands out to represent the Lumads, an indigenous people of southern Philippines. Lumads represent at least 15 ethno-linguistic tribes, including the T’bolis, B’laan, Manobos, Bagobos, Subanon, among other tribes.
For the past few months, he stayed in Manila for “Manilakbayan,” the caravan of the indigenous people to Manila to voice out their issues to the public and the Philippine government. Among their rallying cries are threats to land and life due to militarization and conflict, rampant mining and plantation activities, and the fight to their ancestral domain.
Here in the French capitals, Ogan is actively voicing out the demands of the indigenous peoples of the Philippines as one who is directly impacted by the effects of climate change, as well as the call to stop the killings of environmental advocates.
About 72 tribe leaders have been killed due to resistance against mining companies. Close to 60 of them are Lumads, Ogan lamented.
“We want to tell the nation leaders to recognize the roles of the natives in protecting the environment. The indigenous peoples have been defending the lands of their ancestors and it is tantamount to defending against people who destroy nature, ” he added.
Ogan, together with other representatives of indigenous peoples group all over the world are strongly against the deletion of the “rights of the indigenous peoples” in the final text of the Paris agreement.
More than 190 nations converged in Paris for the historic climate change agreement that is universal, transparent, fair and robust that will take effect by 2020.
So far, according to the latest negotiations draft text which was released around (pm (Paris time) paragraph 4 of the Preamble of the agreement mentioned the rights of the indigenous people in passing. It said that “when developing policies and taking action to address climate change, Parties should promote, protect, respect and take into account their respective obligations on all human rights, the right to health, and the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and under occupation, and the right to development, and promote gender equality and the empowerment of women.”
“We’re protecting the environment, and this language in the agreement serves as a way of compensation,” he said.
In a press conference, representatives from various indigenous peoples caucus expressed their dissatisfaction over the current language of the draft agreement.
“We are not satisfied. I know that there’s a bloc composed of 100 countries that lobbied with the US but the US must come out and clearly say what they want,” said Jethro Tulin, an indigenous peoples of the Pacific islands.
Meanwhile, Asian Indigenous Peoples Caucus representative Mrinal Tripura thinks that the current draft is “not yet a balanced document, “adding that the document needs to be consistent with conflict transformation.
“There will be more conflicts, there are new conflicts, and there are already conflicts. We have to deal with conflicts very carefully,” Tripura lamented.
Most of the delegates representing the indigenous people at the Paris climate talks are scheduled to leave France by Saturday, amid the extension of the climate talks and they aired their concern over the omission of human rights in the final agreement.
“We are concerned that this document will continue to leave governments and corporations violate the rights of the indigenous peoples,” said Kenneth Deer from the North American Indigenous Peoples Caucus.
“Our peoples have been violated for centuries now, whether by colonization or globalization. If COP 21 doesn’t protect the rights of indigenous peoples, the climate talks will be the new globalization,” he added.
Meanwhile, Philippine Climate Change Commissioner (CCC) Heherson Alvarez said, “ Coming from the Philippines, an island nation and one of the top climate disaster hotspots, Alvarez notes that respecting the rights of vulnerable communities means “assisting them as they fight to survive in a warming world.”
“Sensitivities like human rights and gender are not stipulated and that we want national commitments or the Intended nationally Determined Contributions to be more vigorous and more ambitious,” Alvarez said.
“These human rights and gender guarantees are crucial so that when we pursue decarbonization, the vulnerable groups will not be on the side and forgotten,” he said.
The official also called for full transparency to strengthen the final document.
story by Shaira Panela and Anna Valmero
photo by Shaira Panela
video by Anna Valmero
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