NEW REPORT from The Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC)/Friends of the Earth Philippines.
Our new paper, “Locked In, Locked Out: Indigenous Peoples Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic,” has found that Indigenous Peoples (IPs) are suffocating under the stranglehold of large-scale corporations amid the pandemic. In fact, one research respondent said that a corporation (that encroaches on their land) is “more lethal than the COVID-19 disease. Reports on how IPs have been faring amid the pandemic have been few and far between. LRC thus set out to investigate the real situation of IPs to fill this data gap.
Our report found that IPs, both parents and children, are having a difficult time coping with distance learning. Mothers have less time for farm work, to help their children with their modules. And this can be difficult when the mothers themselves did not finish school. Access to the internet, electricity, and modules affects the motivation of the children to study. Internet is costly and is an added strain on families, who are already living on shoestring budgets. As a result, some students have dropped out of school.
Market access has become difficult. Transport costs have surged while commodity prices have fallen. As a result, communities are earning less. Seasonal farm workers are particularly having a difficult time looking for work.
Amid the pandemic, large corporations have continued to wield control over ancestral lands, even without legal contracts and the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of indigenous peoples.
Tuwali Indigenous community, Nueva Nizcaya
During the early months of the pandemic, some employees of OceanaGold, a large-scale metallic mining company, reported for work. They reasoned they were Authorized Persons Outside the Residence (APOR), but were not able to show proof when asked, according to respondents. Fuel tanks to be used for dewatering were also able to enter OceanaGold, even though its operations had been suspended following the expiration of its permit. The police even escorted the tanks and, according to eyewitness reports, violently broke up the Tuwali community barricade.
Taboli-Manobo Indigenous community, South Cotabato
M&S Company, which operates a large-scale coffee plantation in the ancestral domain of the Taboli-Manobo S’daf Claimants Organization, has enforced its own “lockdown,” according to respondents.
“The company is more stifling than a face mask. Before, we could still farm peacefully on our lands. But if we farm on our lands now, the company will not hesitate to slap us with criminal charges. And we see a lot of firearms being brandished before us to quell our dissent,” according to one of the research respondents.