IP, farming, and fisherfolk leaders held a press conference organized by ELAC. (Top, L-R): Melba Bacero, Rudy Catalina, Jeminda Bartolome, Weliton Palite (Bottom, L-R): Erlinda Genoso, Rolando Ponoy, Masicampo Anastacio Balinsay, Renato Tundan Not pictured is Silvestra Dadizon, an IP leader from Narra.

Leaders of various indigenous peoples (IPs), fisherfolk, and farmers’ groups in southern Palawan on Tuesday called out local political leaders they said had made promises to them that they had not fulfilled.

In a press conference organized by local socio-civic organization, the Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC), IP leaders from Quezon, Rizal, Bataraza, Brooke’s Point, Sofronio Española, and Narra, expressed their disappointment with their local leaders. They stated that promises made in the previous elections, such as to uphold their rights on their ancestral lands against big companies looking into extracting resources, or to protect their natural environment from destructive extraction, were not at all addressed.

“Di ba nangako kayo sa amin, na kapag kayo ang aming binoto, na matutulungan ninyo kami na mapapangalagaan ang kalikasan at sa mga kabundukan dito sa Palawan? Pero anong nangyari, dito sa Mt. Bulanjao, matagal na kaming gumawa ng petition para ipadala sa PCSD para huwag bigyan ang mapanirang pagmimina,” said Jeminda Bartolome, a farmer’s wife from Barangay Taratak, Bataraza.

“Saan na ang inyong mga pangako? Kasi ngayon naninigil ako, sa tuwing kayo ay uupo, namumulitika kayo, lahat ng pangako ginagawa ninyo para kami ay maakit. Hindi ba ninyo alam na nagtitiis kami sa init, ulan, pila, gutom, para maserbisyuhan kayo, mara maiboto kayo, dahil kayo ang inaasahan naming makakatulong sa amin?” she added.

Weliton Palite, a Panglima (tribal leader) and barangay official from Ipilan, Brooke’s Point also appealed to both national and local officials to heed their call once more to reconsider the expansion of the Ipilan Nickel Corporation (INC) as well as MacroAsia and Lebach Mining’s expansions. He stated that should these expansions pose a threat to agriculture not only in Brooke’s Point, but in neighboring towns as well.

Indigenous leaders also explained that the mining, palm oil, and monocrop plantation players in their areas have caused painful divisions amongst their kin. They stated that the companies also promised that IPs would benefit from their operations, such as paying royalty shares, providing scholarships, employment, and free healthcare to the communities. The IPs, however, said this is not always the case.

“’Yong mga pinangako na mga scholarship, livelihood, walang nangyari. Hindi totoo na ang mga katutubo ay yayaman, kundi mas lalong naghihirap at nagkakawatak-watak. Ang magkakamag-anak ay nag-aaway-away dahil ang iba ay nasusuhulan, natatapalan,” said Erlinda Geñoso, an IP leader from Sofronio Española.

Geñoso also urged fellow IPs not to be swayed by politicians who would make more lofty promises, and urged them to vote for officials with anti-mining stances.

“Pabalik-balik na lang nilang pinapangako sa atin, pero walang katuparan. Kaya ‘yong mga nangangako naman sila sa atin uli, ‘yan ang pag-isipan natin, sana, huwag tayo masilaw sa pera. Isipin natin ang kabundukan natin, na kapag maubos ‘yon, di bale sa atin, matanda na tayo, pero sa ating mga sumusunod na henerasyon, kapag ibinigay natin iyon sa mga dayuhan, wala nang matitira sa atin,” she added.

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is a senior reporter for Palawan News who covers politics, education, environment, tourism, and human interest stories. She loves watching Netflix, reading literary fiction, and listens to serial fiction podcasts. Her favorite color is blue.