Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary, BAGUIO CITY –SIKLAB, a national indigenous youth movement that aims to strengthen indigenous people’s (IP) struggles for land, life, resources and self-determination from the grassroots up to the national level, was successfully launched during the Luzon-wide Indigenous Youth Gathering held on October 24-26, 2014 at Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary in Baguio City. Sixty (60) indigenous youth from different communities and schools in the Cordillera, Ilocos, Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog regions participated in the event, which was jointly organized by the Philippines Task Force for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights (TFIP), Cordillera Youth Center (CYC) and the Asia Pacific Indigenous Youth Network (APIYN).
The Fervor of IP youth
The youth gathering culminated in the signing of a declaration of unity, wherein the participants resolved to advance and fight for their rights and interests. The declaration identified the injustices, discrimination and oppression experienced by IPs, including the sell-out by the government of their patrimony to big transnational corporations that plunder their resources through “developmental projects.”
Mining, logging, energy projects, economic zones and mono-crop plantations displace them from their ancestral lands. IPs including the youth have also become victims of threats, harassment, intimidation, forced evacuation, rape, extrajudicial killing and other human rights violations. Also, they experience discrimination in schools, hospitals, in the workplace and society and are provided with inadequate basic social services such as education and health in their communities. Another concern is the continued weakening and loss of indigenous knowledge, identity and cultures that have proven invaluable for the sustainability of their communities and of the environment.
With this situation, Valerie Taguba, IP youth coordinator of TFIP, said that SIKLAB as a national IP youth movement is committed to strengthen the IP youth in the country to assert their rights as IPs, protect and preserve the land that their ancestors have given to them and unite to end these injustices, discrimination and oppression.
The youth further demanded that the government respect and recognize their inherent rights as affirmed by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, particularly the rights of the indigenous youth and children against forced dislocation, child labor and exploitation, and for access to appropriate education, employment and transmission of cultures to future generations. The declaration of unity also called for the full and meaningful participation of the IP youth in all processes concerning indigenous communities. “As the present and future leaders of our communities, we have much to contribute for the defense and development of our land and lives,” it stated.
Indigenous Lands in Indigenous Hands
As a first step in their advocacy campaign, the IP youth gathering joined the international “Indigenous Lands in Indigenous Hands” campaign initiated by the Asia Pacific Indigenous Youth Network. The IP youth traced their hands on the Philippine map where they are located and wrote their urgent issues within their communities. Julius Daguitan, secretary general of APIYN, explained that through the campaign they hope to gather more support in advancing the rights of the IPs to their lands, culture and self-determination. The said campaign was launched on September 23, 2014 during the World Conference of Indigenous Peoples held in New York. A petition to scrap the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 was also signed by the participants.
The indigenous youth from Luzon declared, “Together, let us fire up our fervor and forge our voices in unity as SIKLAB!”