It is crystal clear that Marcos Jr. hasn't said a single thing about indigenous communities and ancestral domains. He said nothing about human rights, justice, and accountability. Instead, we are drowned with numbers and promises.
Ferdinand Marcos Jr. opened his State of the Nation Address (SONA) speech with plans to open our country to investments, make the Philippines an investment destination, and strengthen the Foreign Investments Act. But most of these investments happen in ancestral domains protected by indigenous communities.
With the long experience of indigenous communities and indigenous women in protecting the environment and defending their land, we know that whenever there are big corporations and development projects, the State looks at these resources with price tags and not as part of an ecosystem integral to the lives of indigenous communities. We also know that whenever indigenous peoples and indigenous women are standing their ground to protect their rights and their land - there are killings, there are violations of human rights, and indigenous communities are further thrown into poverty.
Indigenous peoples and indigenous women pushed for critical issues during the 2022 national elections. They pushed for the recognition of their rights, their ancestral domains, the end of violence and killings in their communities, and social justice. We didn't hear all that from the State of the Nation Address.
The mention of promoting undiscovered tourist spots raises concern. Tourism programs have become one of the modern challenges that indigenous communities are confronting. There are many indigenous communities' sacred lands affected by development projects in the guise of tourism.
With the ongoing pandemic, it is important now more than ever to discuss the issues and challenges of indigenous communities and indigenous women because they have long been invisible, if not excluded, in Government policies and priorities. The Government must recognize indigenous women and their communities as partners in development, and in forging hope for a more nurturing, and equitable future.
After the first State of the Nation Address of Marcos Jr., asserting indigenous women’s rights and their communities will continue to be a challenge. Let us continue to be vigilant. Indigenous women and LILAK will continue to monitor and will not waver in demanding the protection of the environment and ancestral lands, justice, accountability, and human rights.
Cover Photo: LILAK raises their fists for human rights, accountability, and justice, some of the topics missing from Marcos Jr.'s first SONA, among many things. Taken during the iDEFEND Community Viewing, Discussion, and People's Action at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani. July 25, 2022.