Aglipayan Church stands with the indigenous peoples

Photo by IFI Central Office


MANILA – The Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) launched its project, “Abundant Life and Care for Creation” (ALCC) aiming to support indigenous peoples (IPs).

More than 20 participants from the clergy and IP groups attended the activity held on April 9 10 10 in Ermita, Manila.

“It is crucial to recognize the challenges faced by indigenous peoples. These include land rights issues, displacements from their ancestral domains due to mining activities, and militarization leading to armed conflicts and human rights violations,” the project rationale said.

The first day focusing on the situations of the Mangyan, Aeta, and Lumad IPs was led by Kreng Leaño of the Integrated Development Program for Indigenous Peoples (IDPIP) and Rose Hayahay from Save Our Schools (SOS) Network.

Photo by IFI Central Office

IP situation

According to them, there are 14 to 17 million IPs under 110 ethnolinguistic groups in the Philippines and seven major groupings.

Leaño said that the indigenous people have special and collective rights — the right to ancestral lands and self-determination. Indigenous people have the autonomy to cultivate how they are going to develop their ancestral domains, culture, and social development.

However, oftentimes, the IP communities are collectively facing the struggle to realize these rights due to state-sponsored attacks and neglect.

“One of their primary problems is the lack of social services, particularly in the right to education and health services. At the same time, they suffer from the grave destruction of their ancestral land,” Leaño said in Filipino.

The widespread destruction of ancestral land and the environment is attributed to the establishment of mega-dams and biofuel plantations.

In the Kaliwa Dam project in Rizal and Quezon, 5,000 Dumagat-Remontados are affected, as well as 100,000 residents in nearby communities, and 126 species of animals in the Sierra Madre. The same situation is also seen in the Jalaur Mega Dam Project in Iloilo which would displace 17,000 Tumandoks and harm 16 other indigenous communities.

Roy Bacani, an Aeta who participated in the consultation, shared that the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) is being used to help mining corporations, prompting human rights violations against IPs.

“IPRA is being used for the interest of big corporations. In the process of acquiring land title, ancestral lands are diminished. In some instances, the lands are grabbed by elite families,” Bacani said.

He also added, “Under IPRA, all projects in the communities should get our Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC). What’s happening now is completely different and contradicting.”

Finding solidarity in faith

Leaño shared several practices in their organization on how to help the IPs in asserting their collective rights. Among these are [1] community organizing and training; [2] research, campaign, advocacy, and networking; and [3] community-based health program; and [4] integrated socio-economic and livelihood development services.

“These [activities] will not resolve all of their problems. We are not creating an illusion. But rather, we help them in defending their rights,” said Leaño.

Rev. Jewel B. Tumaliuan, the project coordinator of ALCC, said that these human rights violations and the continuing struggle for land, justice, and social services are the main problems that the ALCC seeks to address.

“The Abundant Life and Care for Creation aims to address the challenges faced by the indigenous people through persistent awareness development of the church. We should enhance and strengthen our advocacy and solidarity, and the recognition of the partnership of IPs with the church,” Rev. Tumaliuan said.

The first phase of the project will focus on capacity-building within partner Dioceses through consultations, training, and rights-based education. Meanwhile, the second phase seeks to strengthen the advocacy work for IP rights and build a broad network.

The IP participants commended the efforts of IFI in consulting the indigenous people. Almario Agayhay, a Mangyan, hoped that there would be sustained initiatives and communication even after the implementation of the project.

Fr. Wilfredo Ruazol emphasized that the ALCC project is not a charity project for the IP communities.

“The ALCC is an expression of our immersion and connection. This is a realization of our faith that serves the interest of the people. To our Lumad, Mangyan, and Aeta people, we thank you for continuously challenging church people to live out their faith,” Fr. Ruazol said.

Photo by IFI Central Office

Laying out the blueprint of partnership

The second day of the session focused on a workshop and drafting of initial plans for the IP communities. The draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was also presented, laying out the responsibilities of the IFI Central Office, the Diocese of Romblon and Mindoro, and the Diocese of Cortes.

“The MoU shall commence on April 10, 2024, and remain in effect until the completion of the two-year project,” Rev. Tumaliuan said.

The IFI Central Office also committed itself to taking an active role in addressing human security risks in the implementation of the project such as assistance in cases of human rights violations.

Rt. Rev. Ronello Fabriquier, Bishop of Romblon and Mindoros, offered a solidarity message with the IP communities.

“I saw the same experience and problems faced by various IP groups. Our journey with them is a life of sacrifice. If we immerse with them, we will surely experience a lot of things. A fulfilling life anchored in the land and creation, and the future of our indigenous people. The church is an institution with credibility to join them and create a ministry for them,” said Rt. Rev. Fabriquier.

He also ended the program by expressing his gratitude to the program organizers, partners, and most especially the participants from various Dioceses and IP groups.

“We have a lot to do in church in joining their struggle and we hope that we will not disappoint them. The church is not the savior for them, we just accompany them in their fight. We hope that we continue to see more initiatives in the future together, in forwarding programs for the interest of the indigenous people,” he ended. (RTS, DAA) (

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