Apr 12, 2011

Cordillera: Indigenous Peoples Raise Alarm Against Aggressive Mining Policy of Aquino Government

A national alliance of indigenous peoples’ groups has once again raised the alarm against the effects of foreign-controlled large-scale mining.


Below is an article published by: Alipato Media Center.

“This is an issue of life-and-death not only for the indigenous peoples but also for the whole nation. If all of the mining projects will push through, the damage on the environment and on the people’s lives would be irreparable,” Joan Jaime of Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Kamp) said.

A national alliance of indigenous peoples’ groups has once again raised the alarm against the effects of foreign-controlled large-scale mining.

The Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Kamp), together with Katribu party list and other groups, revived its national campaign dubbed as “Ancestral Lands at Risk of Mining” (ALARM) to defend the indigenous peoples’ territories against the onslaught of “imperialist mining.”

ALARM sites identified by the groups include Cordillera region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Mindoro island, Palawan, Surigao del Sur and Surigao del Norte, Agusan del Sur and Agusan del Norte, Bukidnon, Davao region, Compostela Valley, Socksargends and Zamboanga Peninsula.

In a forum held April 8 in Quezon City, Joan Jaime, Kamp national coordinator, said that the new administration has virtually continued the priority mining projects of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. In fact, Jaime revealed that the Aquino administration proves to be “more aggressive” in attracting foreign mining corporations to invest in the country.

Jaime said that based on the initial and partial estimation of the approved and renewed mining projects as of October 2010, most of the mining projects are within the ancestral lands of indigenous peoples.

Citing data from the Mines and Geoscience Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Jaime said that of the six projects with Financial or Technical Assistance Agreements (FTAA), five are within the ancestral domain of indigenous peoples covering more than 103,000 hectares. The FTAA is a contract between the Philippine government and mining companies allowing the latter to undertake large-scale exploration and development of minerals. It allows up to 100-percent foreign ownership in a mining project.

Meanwhile, of the 338 approved Mineral Product Sharing Agreement (MPSA), 118 are in indigenous peoples’ areas covering more than 533,000 hectares. In an MPSA, the government merely grants the right to the mineral resources whereas the contractor provides the financing, technology, management and personnel for the implementation of the agreement.

Furthermore, although only 39 of the 89 companies with exploration permits (EP) are within the indigenous peoples’ territories, these cover more than 244,000 hectares. An EP allows a qualified person to undertake exploration activities for mineral resources in certain areas open to mining.

According to Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), nearly a million hectares or 51 percent of the Cordillera land area is covered by licensed operations and pending applications of mining transnational corporations (TNCs).

Mining operations and applications are in Abra, Benguet, Apayao, Kalinga, Ifugao and Mountain Province. Jaime said that mining corporations have also entered the coastal areas in Ilocos region. She added that the mining projects will eventually poison the Abra river, a major river system in the north. “Mining TNCs have destroyed the mountains, the rivers and the sea,” Jaime said.

Besides mining, there are existing and proposed dam projects in the Cordillera.
“The whole of Cordillera region is being sold out,” Jaime said.

In Cagayan Valley, there are two FTAAs covering more than 20,000 hectares of land and eight MPSAs covering more than 21,000 hectares. Jaime said among those affected are the Bugkalot and Ilongot tribes in Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino, the Agta, Aggay and Ayta in Cagayan, Quirino and Isabela and the Igorots who were displaced from Cordillera and have settled in the provinces of Cagayan Valley.

“These Igorots are again facing the threat of being driven away by mining,” Jaime said.
In Central Luzon, there are 18 MPSAs and 5 EPs mostly in Zambales province. Indigenous tribes such as Ayta, Dumagat and Igorot are most affected.

Jaime said mining TNCs are also targeting Mindoro and Palawan. More than 99 mining applications cover more than 51 percent of Mindoro and Mangyans comprise 21 percent of the population in the province. In Palawan, meanwhile, 14 towns are covered by existing operations and mining applications. There are more than 280,000 indigenous peoples subdivided into six groups.

“Foreign large-scale mining would wipe out indigenous peoples in these areas. It is tantamount to ethnocide,” Jaime said.

In many parts of Mindanao, the situation of indigenous peoples is almost the same.
In Surigao and Agusan provinces, Lumad groups Manobo, Mamanwa, Talaandig, Higaonon are most affected, Jaime said. In Bukidnon, Jaime said a “mining highway” was constructed for easier access of mining TNCs to areas. Dams are also being built to provide electricity for mining operations.

Meanwhile, in Davao region, 14 MPSA cover more than 35,000 hectares and 1 EP covers 24,600 hectares. There are five MPSA and two EP in Compostela Valley affecting Lumad tribes. In the quad-boundary of Socsksargen, Western Mining Corporation has taken over almost 100,000 hectares. At least 240,000 Lumads will be displaced by the operations.
In Zamboanga Peninsula, 13 MPSAs cover almost 43,00 hectares. The TVI Resource Development operating the Canatuan mine in Zamboanga del Norte is planning to expand its operations to other parts of Western Mindanao.

Jaime said the open pit mining in Canatuan mine dried up bodies of water and damaged forest vegetation. Mine tailings from the mine spill over to the creek and the river.
In all of the priority areas for mining, there are heavy military operations, according to Jaime. The Armed Forces of the Philippines and paramilitary units protect these mining corporations. For instance, in Southern Mindanao region, there is the Investment Defense Force (IDF). In Socskargen, a special military unit was also formed to safeguard mines. In Surigao del Sur, Lumads and farmers had been evacuating from their homes due to intense military operations.

“Where would the indigenous peoples go?” Jaime asked.

More Aggressive
The group said that Aquino did not revoke the priority mining projects of the previous administration. The Arroyo administration identified 23 mining projects and 41 exploration projects.

“Aquino did not change the mining policy. He reformed it to become more aggressive in enticing mining TNCs,” Jaime said.

Jaime explained that the cancelation of 600 mining applications by the Aquino administration was intended to replace “inactive” mining TNCs with those that would want to operate.

Jaime also criticized Malacañang for interfering in the South Cotabato open-pit mining ban to pursue a so-called “win-win” solution for Xstrata and the local government.
The group also said that Aquino did not act to stop the Mt. Diwalwal mining privatization and did not reverse midnight mining deals such as FTAA in Palawan and MPSA in Camarines Sur.

Defending Ancestral Land
Jaime said that amid the attacks on their ancestral land and livelihood, the indigenous peoples are fighting against foreign large-scale mining.

Indigenous peoples’ in Cordillera, particularly the Kankanaey and Ibaloi, came together in April 2009 to oppose the entry of mining TNCs. The gathering resulted in the Bakun Declaration. In the same manner, the next month, small-scale miners and small farmers in Diwalwal united themselves and came up with the Monkayo Declaration. In October of the same year, farmers and Lumads signed up the Andap Valley Declaration in Diatagon, Surigao del Sur.

Jaime said other indigenous peoples from ALARM sites are set to follow suit.
“This is an issue of life-and-death not only for the indigenous peoples but also for the whole nation. If all of the mining projects will push through, the damage on the environment and on the people’s lives would be irreparable,” Jaime said.