Environment Secretary Gina Lopez has vowed to take swift and effective action on the Lumad's complaints about destructive mining, illegal logging and other environment-sensitive activities in Mindanao.
"The common good remains my non-negotiable stand. I promise to act on your concerns especially those that directly affect your livelihood and your homes," Lopez told the Lumad during their second meeting on Tuesday at the DENR central office in Quezon City.
The indigenous people (IP) have complained about how destructive mining and illegal logging activities have caused superfluous injury and unnecessary suffering to poor communities in Mindanao.
The Lumad's primary concern is the rampant human rights violations allegedly perpetrated by large mining and logging firms, which they want to be stopped immediately.
The IP group also called for an immediate probe on the disappearance of one of their members, which they claimed was related to the DMCI logging project in Sultan Kudarat.
The group also asked for a halt on the operation or cancellation of the mining permit granted to Sagittarius Mines Inc. that is allegedly conducting open-pit mining in Tampakan, South Cotabato.
Lopez said that if the results of the ongoing mining audit being conducted by the DENR would show that there were indeed violations, she will either suspend the operation or cancel the permits of erring mining firms depending on the gravity of the violation.
"I will not allow people to suffer because these big companies want to do business," Lopez said. "This is beyond my conscience and will not be tolerated by this administration."
On behalf of the Lumad, Pya Macliing Malayao of KATRIBU (Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas) gave Lopez a copy of the "Indigenous People's (IP) Agenda" which lists their demands to the Duterte government on key issues related to the recognition and respect of the collective rights of the IPs to their ancestral land and resources, human rights and social services and development.
It also includes points covered by the mandate of the DENR, including the revision of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and the National Integrated Protected Areas Systems Law or NIPAS of 1992; moratorium on the grant of all mining permits; and make mining and logging companies liable for the destruction of natural resources in their areas.
The agenda will be officially submitted to the Office of the President on August 8 as part of the commemoration of the World Indigenous Peoples' Day.
Also present in the meeting were officials of the Environmental Management Bureau and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.
Lopez first met the Lumad representatives at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Manila, where they had the chance to air their complaints to the new DENR chief. ###