The question of survival: understanding the impact of liberalisation and development on indigenous peoples in Mindanao, Philippines

Author: Pueblos, Adora Penaco

Date: 2013

Publisher: Victoria University of Wellington

Type: Scholarly text, Master's

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Victoria University of Wellington


This thesis aims to study the impact of mineral resource development on the indigenous peoples in the Philippines, focussing primarily on the consequential effect of the destruction of their ancestral domains and loss of access to their sacred spaces as it relates to their survival. Further, it seeks to bring to the widest attention possible their little known struggles against the invading and destructive forces of development, particularly large-scale mining, in their traditional areas. Most of all, this research ambitions to (1) debunk the prevailing research trend of dismissing emotions as irrational, illogical and useless in research because it is unquantifiable, and therefore, unscientific; and (2) critique Western-influenced paradigms on development by shedding light on the limitations of Eurocentric commitment to orthodox discourses that valorise resource development as supreme over cultural meanings and view environment as something completely detached from humans. In this study is presented the conflicting sides found at the heart of this age-old problem: the opposing views of government/mining companies on one hand, and those of the indigenous peoples on the other, their differing perceptions and stance on the issue of exploitation and control of natural resources found in ancestral domains. This research explored the deep emotional connections of indigenous peoples to their ancestral domains and how these are inexorably linked to their cultural identity. The data illustrate their profound sufferings in the hands of development agents and, paradoxically, the Philippine government itself through its open-arms policy on foreign investments and liberalised mining laws, heavily compounded by the unwarranted deployment of the military to ensure a smooth transition in approved mining areas. Using de-colonising methodologies and research approaches to tackle the issue, empirical data gathered are drawn from participant observation, semi-structured interviews and informal indigenous communities, and later organised according to themes evident upon collation of data. The findings are linked to a wider theoretical context and complemented with analyses of academic literature orientated to post-structural political ecology, emotional geographies and indigenous geographies that support the arguments in this study. As well as highlighting potential areas for future studies on indigenous peoples, this research points to the root cause of the problem to a people’s fundamental loss of power that denies them their control over their emotional spaces, resources and destiny. Accordingly, this fundamental relation needs to be given greater consideration in policy formulation and implementation of regulations that govern environment, natural resources and ancestral domains.

Subjects: Development, Indigenous, People