Hundreds of sombre indigenous protesters marched through the dark streets of Manila Sunday nightafter travelling for days to the Philippine capital. They held banners and signs calling on the government to end the escalating violence and killings of Lumads in the mineral-rich southern Mindanao region.
The Lumads, an indigenous group with traditional land in the Mindanao, say the government is sanctioning military and paramilitary operations on their land in order to displace them and allow mining companies, including those with Canadian, Australian and British interests, to enter the region.
In recent months, increased violence and murders of Lumads in the Mindanao region has forced thousands to evacuate communities and schools. On Aug. 18, five Lumads were killed, allegedly by government soldiers, according to Human Rights Watch, and on Sept. 1, three leaders of a Lumad community were allegedly killed by a paramilitary group. Bishop Modesto Villasanta told Filipino newspaper Sun Star that soldiers stood by and did nothing as the paramilitary murdered them.
That’s why hundreds of Lumads led a caravan called a Manilakbayan from the Mindanao area to Manila, stopping to hold rallies along the way, to bring attention to the murders.
The government, meanwhile, has denied any responsibility. In early September, Philippine president Benigno Aquino said “there is no campaign to kill Lumad people. We are serving the people … Serving the people does not mean killing its citizens.”
350.org has accused mining companies including UK-based Philex, Swiss company Glencore, which has a Canadian mining arm, Japanese company Sumitomo, Australia’s Red 5 Limited, and Canadian-linked Toronto Ventures Incorporated (now known as TVI Resources Development) of “land grabs” in the Mindinao.
Speaking to VICE News at the Manila protest, Vennel Chenfoo, chair of the Panalipdan Youth Mindanao Organization, accused mining companies including SMI, Xtrata and TVI of contributing to conflict in the region.
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