April 11, 2008

Cordillera: Mining Threatens Ancestral Lands

Sample ImageThe insensitive actions of Olympus Mining and the deployment of troops by the Philippine government betray a lack of respect to indigenous peoples.

Below is an excerpt from an appeal issued by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance.

The Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) of the Binongan indigenous peoples in Baay-Licuan, Abra Philippines, was grossly violated by Canadian mining company Olympus Pacific Minerals for not securing such prior to exploration and drilling in the indigenous peoples’ ancestral domain at Capcapo mountain [...] Olympus only stopped its operations in August 2007 when the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP)-CAR told them to defer all exploration activities. Also, there was no FPIC process conducted with the communities as they had no prior knowledge that there was a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) approved and issued to the local subsidiaries in April 1998. Even the NCIP-CAR and NCIP-Abra’s investigation findings state that indeed, Olympus Mines has “grossly violated the rights of the indigenous cultural communities/indigenous peoples over their ancestral domain (Capcapo) and failed to comply with the requirements under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) and NCIP AO No.1, S. 2006.” The affected communities are stepping up their opposition with the continuing submission of petitions since March 2007 to the NCIP regional and provincial offices and local government units. As a result of the community complaints, Olympus is now making haste to comply with the FPIC requirements through consultations with the concerned barangays from April 1-19, 2008

[…]

Baay Licuan is composed of 11 barangays. It is part of the ancestral domain of the Binongan IPs in Abra. Being an ancestral domain, the indigenous communities have taken care of and developed the land, which gives them life and nourishes every generation. Olympus’ operations will permanently destroy these including the lives of generations it has sustained. 

Background: AMIC and Jabel Olympus entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with AMIC and Jabel on November 23, 2006 over the 4,300-hectare Capcapo project. AMIC and Jabel have mining claims in Baay Licuan MPSA (Mineral Sharing and Production Agreement) 144-99-CAR and 141-99-CAR. These mining claims were among those anomalously certified by the NCIP in April 1998 and consequently approved by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (MGB-DENR) along with seven others (Lepanto Mining, Philex, Discovery, Horizon Mineral and Oil Corp and Itogon Suyoc Mines), on the unfounded basis that there are no applications for ancestral land claims and titles, insinuating there are no indigenous peoples in these areas. The CPA has long exposed and contested these certifications that blatantly and consciously violated indigenous peoples’ inherent right to FPIC, ancestral lands and self determination. The NCIP has not responded to this matter up to date. This also shows the injustice committed to the indigenous communities from the very start, from the mining claims of Jabel and AMIC, and now, to their joint operations with Olympus. The case of a transnational mining company partnering with local mining companies is not new, as this has been the trend in other areas in the region in the mining industry such as UK-based Anglo American and Cordillera Exploration in Apayao and US-based Phelps Dodge and Makilala Mining in Kalinga.

We call on the public to support the indigenous peoples of Baay-Licuan in their fight to protect their land and resources, not just for the present, but for the coming generations and for the rest of the province of Abra. The Philippine government must uphold the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, of which it is a signatory. By virtue of indigenous peoples’ right to self determination (Art.3) and by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development; that they have the right to participate in decision-making matters that affect them (Art.18), and thus States shall cooperate to obtain their FPIC (Art.19) prior to any legislative and administrative measure that may affect them. This provision of the UNDRIP must be implemented and respected by the government and mining companies for it to be meaningful to IPs and to prove sincerity of government and Olympus of recognizing the collective rights of indigenous peoples like the Binongan indigenous peoples.

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To read the full appeal, please click here. (PDF format, 158kb)