Sunday, December 2, 2007

Mining is root of military operations in Lumad lands in Surigao

In Lianga, Surigao del Sur, some 1,500 Lumad residents evacuated from their homes. Not because they were hit by typhoon Lando or Mina, but the onslaught of military operations.

At present, 254 families or 1,511 individuals (492 are children) are now housed in evacuation centers. The majority of evacuees are Lumad indigenous peoples. Barangay Diatagon and San Agustin in Lianga is the ancestral land of Lumad tribes.
“There’s no denying the fact that more than a thousand Lumad tribesmen fled their homes in Lianga, Surigao del Sur. Equally irrefutable is that military elements are occupying the fled residents’ homes,” Himpad Mangumalas, Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP) spokesperson said. “It’s absurd that the military blame anyone else for the evacuations, when they are the ones seen gallivanting in the area,” Mangumalas, a Lumad leader, added.

Since November 1, military men were seen in the Lumad communities of Simowao and Emerald in Lianga. They mounted makeshift tents at the the center of the community, some living inside resident’s houses and in the tribal school. There were about a hundred soldiers encamped in the village.

In a news article in the Inquirer, Philippine Army’s 401st Brigade commander Col. Jose Vizcarra denied that they are occupying civilian homes, adding that the reports of evacuation are propaganda of the Communist Party. They said that the military are occupying a New People’s Army camp site.

“This is an outright lie. The military encamped on homes of civilians and schools duly recognized by the Department of Education,” Mangumalas counters. The Lumad school in Lianga is a National Literacy Awardee.

No stranger to evacuation

Renewed military operations are like a recurring nightmare to the residents of Lianga. In the late 1980’s Diatagon residents were forced to evacuate in the course of military operations against armed rebels. Again in April to May 2005, full-blown military operations caused 2,241 individuals to flee their homes.

“To survive military operations, the people had to evacuate. These people have a long history with the military, and their ruthlessness sowed fear,” Mangumalas claimed. In the 2005 military operations in Diatogon, 1,234 cases of human rights violations including killing, torture, aerial bombardment, and enforced disappearances were recorded by human rights group KARAPATAN-Caraga.

“The military does not heed human rights. Aside from occupying the resident’s homes, they regulated civilian activities, even planting in their own lands. They have caused fear, insecurity, and hunger,” Mangumalas said. “This humanitarian crisis is a moral issue to President Arroyo and her armed forces. The cold-blooded military watched children walk 20 kilometers to the town.”

Guarding private interests

Surigao del Sur is rich in forest and mineral resources, all of which are found in Manobo ancestral lands. Benguet Corportion (BenCorp) aquired rights in the 1980s to mine 6,000 hectares of coal lands surrounding Lianga, called the Surigao Coal Project. The same area is the bewailed military operation site.

“Militarization is a prelude to commence ‘development zones’. They smooth out any dissenters by fear or death,” Mangumalas said. “Massive military operations coincides were the government pronounces as a priority economic zone. As for President Arroyo, mining is her pet project” Mangumalas added.

KAMP claims that renewed military activities in Surigao del Sur will facilitate the entry of mining companies in Lianga. “The military is scraping the bottom of the barrel to justify their terrorism in indigenous people’s lands. It is clear to us that they are razing indigenous people’s lands to pave the way for corporate interests.” ##

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

September 1, 2007

What will prevent Oxiana Mining?

There is wide protestation with the Oxiana mining exploration in Nueva Vizcaya, even from the local government and clergy. The residents went as far as to barricade the road to prevent the Australian mining firm’s equipment from entering their community.

In a true democracy, popular dissent would immediately cease the mining operations. However, as a testament to our sham democracy, the indigenous peoples along with other residents were forced to mêlée with the CAFGU and other armed elements in league with Oxiana when they the mining firm tried to forcibly shove their equipment into the village.

Like most cases of development aggression, the local militia lends a hand to smoothen entry of foreign capital into our country by smothering protests. Often, the indigenous peoples, whose ancestral lands are laden with minerals, become collateral damage of mining ventures. The government that hankers for foreign investment sells our patrimony and bargains indigenous people’s rights to the highest bidder.

The connivance of the Armed Forces with the Oxiana mining firm to assail a justified resistance of the people is detestable. Is it the people or the capital that our armed forces serve? When we hear the many stories of development aggression, there is no longer any doubt to the answer.

The illusion of development that will ensue after Oxiana mining operates no longer deceives the indigenous peoples and environment groups. In contrast, the mining project may contaminate groundwater and water table feeding the citrus farms, citrus production being the main livelihood in Kasibu and nearby communities. The growing citrus industry is more promising than the destructive and non-renewable mining enterprise. It has become quite apparent that the government could no longer pin their personal profit agendas on the name of national development.

Lito Atienza’s pronouncement that Oxiana should halt operations is overdue, having waited for violence to spark before arbitrating. However, having had a hand in approving the mining permit, we could expect no more than a face-saving move from the DENR Chief. What is more alarming for us is that the strong opposition from all sides, plus the negative environmental upshot of the mining project, is not deemed enough reason to cancel the exploration and operation permit.

We wonder now how long this charade of suspension will last, and fear for the security of protesting residents. We doubt that the military and their agents would not employ violent dispersals or worse, as it has done so recently.

August 8, 2007

NCIP is facilitator of human rights violations –IPs

The tribal war rages on against development aggression and militarization. The indigenous peoples will not endure another death from their ranks: this has become a battle for survival.

These are the sentiments of the horde of indigenous people who stormed Metro Manila in commemoration of the Indigenous Peoples Week; an annual event led by the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP).

The indigenous peoples groups slammed the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) “for purporting to be pro-people and IP rights champion.”

“We have come from remote areas in the countryside to protest the worsening state of the indigenous peoples. This agency should have been answerable to the human rights violations exacted upon the indigenous peoples, but it has offered us to the wolves” Himpad Mangumalas, spokesperson on KAMP said.

According to the group, the NCIP did nothing to stop government policies that are anti-people and oppressive to the indigenous peoples. “The Mining Act of 1995 and Arroyo’s revitalized mining initiatives is fatal to us, we are forced out of our lands and kept from our livelihood. The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) only deceives my indigenous brethren that there is hope that our interests and theirs could ever coincide.” Mangumalas declares.

August 9 is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

Finding no reason to celebrate, KAMP and affiliate organizations troop to agencies they consider as the “perpetrators of massive displacement, plunder of natural resources, and human rights violations.”

“We have repeatedly asked this agency to intercede our call to cease military deployment in IP communities,” Mangumalas shares. “Human rights violations and death from our ranks emanates from it.”

The counter-insurgency Oplan Bantay Laya crushed more civilians than armed rebels, according to KAMP. They fear that the Human Security Act, which they say is the “legal version of Oplan Bantay Laya” poses threat to the indigenous peoples.

“We have been mauled, threatened, and tortured by the military,” said Nelson Mallari, Secretary General of Central Luzon Aeta Association (CLAA). “Because we won’t succumb to their accusations that we are armed guerrillas.”

KAMP is also joined by Bigkis at Lakas ng Katutubo sa Timog Katagalugan (BALATIK). The regional organization of Dumagat and Remontado tribes in Southern Tagalog went to the NCIP to appeal the construction of the Laiban Dam. “The cause of opposing the dam has taken the life of my husband, but my children and I persist,” Adeling Delos Santos, wife of slain IP leader Nicanor Delos Santos said.

The group demanded justice to the 130 indigenous peoples killed extra-judicially since the start of the Arroyo administration. “We have been taught that it all boils down to a matter of a buck,” Mangumalas said. “To the government and its agencies, no amount of life, dignity, and respect is more valuable than profit.”#

August 8, 2007

IPs baptizes new Defense chief with fire

The new Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. is greeted by an angry mob of indigenous peoples on his first day at work.

“This is a poor way to start your term,” Himpad Mangumalas, spokesperson of Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP) admitted. “But the indigenous peoples’ call for respect for human rights is urgent and resonant.”

The group decried the atrocities allegedly perpetrated by the Department of National Defense (DND). They lambasted the military for the death of indigenous peoples and various human rights abuses all pointing to them.

“We were not immune to the spate of extra-judicial killings attributed to state mercenaries,” he said. “We have been treated as ‘economic terrorists’ because we opposed development projects like mining in our land.”

Indigenous Peoples Human Rights Watch-Philippines has documented 130 killings among the indigenous peoples.

A case in point, KAMP said, is the atrocities exacted upon the indigenous communities in Sitio Malapiat, Rizal, Kalings. Last June 25, elements from the AFP and PNP riddled the community with bullets from high-powered weapons, killing nine and wounding four. All were members of indigenous tribes.

The residents fired in retaliation after seeing family members killed or wounded. Later in the afternoon, the same group of police and military returned and burned their homes to the ground.

“As if indigenous folk has no right of self-defense, they were arrested and charged with frustrated murder,” Mangumalas said.

This is but a peek to the kind of life the indigenous peoples endure in the countryside, according to KAMP. “To come to the city and picket is the last thing indigenous people want,” Mangumalas, a Lumad from Mindanao said. “But we have no choice. We wake up to bullets and bulldozers otherwise.”

The militant group challenged Teodoro to change the DND’s ill reputation.

Local and international human rights groups, even the government’s own Melo Commission, are all pointing fingers at the military for being behind the extra-judicial killings.

“We doubt that he can muster enough guts just to save face,” Mangumalas ended. “Like those who preceded him, he is part of the system we do so much to change.”

August 8, 2007

IPs challenge Atienza: Oppose anti-environment economic policies

Hundreds of indigenous peoples marched to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) while stabbing a snake-ended GMA effigy with their spears and crossbows.

Led by the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP), indigenous peoples from Luzon staked out at the gates of the DENR, part of the week-long commemoration of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

“President Arroyo is a snake to the indigenous peoples,” Himpad Mangumalas, spokesperson of KAMP explained. “She slithers through our communities with high-flying development projects, and then bites us with her lethal armed forces.”

The group denounced the agency’s “legitimizing the plunder of natural resources” by granting mining applications to trans-national corporations. The IPs assailed the agency for shrugging off the social costs of large-scale mining to IP communities. “We refuse to be treated as collateral damage,” Mangumalas declared.

The indigenous peoples protested against “development aggression” made possible through the rubberstamp of the DENR. “The DENR is not an impediment for businessmen who ravage our natural resources. Destructive as they are, they still warrant entry of large-scale mining companies. It’s profits and kick-backs in lieu of national patrimony and environment.” Mangumalas said.

President Arroyo recently hailed Lito Atienza as chief of DENR, Atienza’s appointment was met with criticisms from environment groups.

“We are apprehensive of Atienza’s appointment as Environment chief as well,” Mangumalas confesses. “We have reason to doubt that Atienza has the guts to resist pressure from investors and businessmen in the name of environmental interest.”

Misgivings aside, KAMP offers a challenge to the newly appointed Environment chief Lito Atienza. “We have for years wrestled with this agency to scrap anti-people and destructive development projects and enterprises, but to no avail.” Mangumalas said. “Let us see if he has enough backbone to oppose the mining initiatives of the government, in lieu of environmental protection and respect for IP rights.”

Otherwise, the group pointed out, he had just confirmed that he is “but a pawn in Arroyo’s deadly game of economic development”.

August 8, 2007

GMA’s mining agenda and military decrees a lethal combo – IPs

Typhoon Chedeng did not stop indigenous peoples of Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon from storming the Office of the President in Malacanang where the newly created Philippine Mining Development Corporation (PMDC) resides.

Carrying with them placards and streamers denouncing the alleged ineptitude of the government to resolve the adverse mining impacts in indigenous communities, the group led by the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP) reiterated earlier calls to scrap the Mining Act of 1995 and for the withdrawal of all corporate mining operations in their territories.

KAMP noted that 18 of the 24 priority mining projects of the Arroyo administration are located in indigenous territories: ten in Mindanao, six in Cordillera and Northern Luzon, and one each in Palawan and Mindoro Islands.

The group further criticized Pres. Arroyo’s implementation of the Human Security Act of 2007, saying that “the mining and anti-terrorism laws, undeniably to be carried out in sync, will result to ‘legalized’ political repression, massive land grabbing, and even the killing of people who openly disapprove the ‘national development’ rhetoric of the Arroyo administration.”

Himpad Mangumalas, spokesperson for KAMP, explained that militarization of indigenous communities plays a vital role in the government’s agenda for revitalizing the mining industry. “By deploying troops and setting up military detachments, the government assures transnational and multinational mining corporations that our communities are cleared off of any resistance.”

“The Human Security Act bestows Pres. Arroyo and her allies the mandate to tag as ‘economic terrorists’ anyone who gets in their way and therefore fall prey to State persecution,” he added.

The indigenous leader also described the President’s move to include PMDC under her office and the hailing of her brother-in-law, Rep. Ignacio Arroyo, into the Congressional committee on natural resources as “troubling because it greatly diminishes all measures for transparency” and that “it may have even been a well-thought move to further weaken the social and environmental safeguards provided by the Constitution, and later on allows for a ‘one-stop shop’ processing in the applications of mining giants.”

“We would like to remind Pres. Arroyo that this makes her even more accountable to victims of mining disasters and of mining-related human rights violations, including economic dislocation, eviction from ancestral territories and the virtual ‘ethnocide’ of tribal communities,” the KAMP leader said.

Mangumalas cited the recently reported collapse of TVI-Resource Development Philippines’ mine tailings pond in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte in Mindanao. The Canadian-owned mining firm which operates in Mount Canatuan, a sacred site of the Subanens, denied their tailings pond had collapsed. However, residents are wary that the wall of the pond might give way due to heavy rains.

In Kasibu, Nueva Vizacaya in Northern Luzon, three Bugkalot and Ifugao village chiefs are reportedly facing charges when Australian-owned Oxiana Philippines Inc. filed a case against 22 men, the three tribesmen included, after putting up a barricade against the entry of the mining exploration in their community. The town mayor asked higher government officials and the mining giant to “respect the people's will.”

The group also challenged recently proclaimed PMDC chief, Mr. Heherson Alvarez, to “take a bold and decisive stand whenever indigenous peoples’ rights are at stake” but also reminded him that “there is a fine line between genuine consultation and deception.”

Mangumalas was pertaining to the consultation mechanisms offered by the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) and one of its major provisions, the Free, Prior and Informed Consent, which has been “reengineered to easily accommodate demands of the mining sector.”

“Mr. Alvarez may want to study and seriously implement the recommendations put forward by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the indigenous peoples, Prof. Rodolfo Stavenhagen, that lists guidelines on how to respect the rights of the indigenous peoples in the country. His ‘current boss’ seemed to have failed miserably when her foreign-controlled mining industry is at stake,” Mangumalas said.

In commemoration of the Intenational Day of Indigenous Peoples

August 9, 2007

Indigenous leaders slams GMA’s mining and military policies

Indigenous leaders from various provinces in Luzon gathered in Manila today to call upon the Arroyo administration to stop all State-perpetrated human rights violations, which they say occur upon the implementation of the President’s national economic programs and military policies.

In a statement issued by the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP), a federation of indigenous peoples organizations in the country, the leaders said that Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s programs on corporate large-scale mining and similar destructive “development” projects have met wide condemnation from various indigenous communities around the country.

“We are stripped off of our lands, our livelihoods and our future. When we resist the lopsided policies and projects of the government, we fall prey to the worst kinds of human rights violations like extrajudicial killings,” the indigenous leaders declared.

“It is beyond doubt that the state of human rights of the indigenous peoples in the country worsened under the Arroyo presidency,” declared Himpad Mangumalas, a Lumad and the national spokesperson of Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP), a federation of indigenous peoples organizations in the country.

Mangumalas cited the recommendations brought forward by United Nations Special Rapporteur on indigenous peoples, Prof. Rodolfo Stavenhagen, in March 2003 which called upon the Arroyo government to respect the rights of the indigenous peoples. In a follow-up visit by the UN expert this year, the Special Rapportuer observed that the pattern of human rights violations against indigenous peoples continued and that there had been an increase of incidents as reported to him by indigenous peoples groups.

KAMP is more than ever alarmed by Pres. Arroyo’s pronouncements that in order to achieve national economic progress, the Philippine government also has to aggressively implement the Human Security Act of 2007, a law that greatly mirrors the U.S. government’s ‘war against terrorism.’ This is most evident in Pres. Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address (SONA),” Mangumalas added.

Vernie Yocogan-Diano, a woman Igorot leader from the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), further cited the report made early this year by the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Prof. Philip Alston, part of which included the extrajudicial killings of Rafael “Markus” Bangit and Alyce Omengan-Claver. “Bangit and Dr. Chandu Claver (husband of Alyce) were very vocal against the lopsided policies of the Arroyo administration, making targets for ‘neutralization’ by the Arroyo government,” added Diano.

“Neutralization” is a by-term of the State policy, Oplan Bantay Laya, a counterinsurgency program of the Arroyo government that have met wide condemnation having included in its targets unarmed civilians belonging to legal organizations. KAMP believes that the Human Security Act of 2007 is the “legal version of Oplan Bantay Laya.”

“To date, our organizations have monitored 130 killings against indigenous peoples, including the massacre involving nine persons that occurred in June 25, 2007 when combined forces of the police and military indiscriminately fired towards the residential houses in Sitio Malapiat, San Pascual, Rizal, Kalinga Province,” said Diano. The perpetrators, who were part of a demolition team allegedly sanctioned by the town mayor, was not able to show the residents any demolition order.

“The victims did not expect any eviction because the land dispute covering 2,934-hectare agricultural estate was pending in court. More appalling, in a report aired by a local television network that day, a spokesperson of Philippine National Police (PNP) in Kalinga claimed that the incident was an encounter with the New People’s Army (NPA),” disclosed Diano.

“This is just a small case when compared to human rights violations that occur in the implementation of Pres. Arroyo’s revitalized mining policy,” Mangumalas said. “Of the 24 priority mining projects of the Arroyo administration, 16 of them can be found in indigenous territories. We are aware that the government is hell-bent in pursuing this program. They do not want anyone to get in the way.” The transfer of authoritative powers from the DENR to the Philippine Mining Development Corporation (PMDC) attests to the desperate desire of the government to fast-track mining applications. “The government unabashedly vends our patrimony to a few profit-hungry mining companies,” Mangumalas added.

“We are made ‘squatters’ in the lands that are rightfully ours,” complained Nelson Mallari from the Central Luzon Aeta Association (CLAA). Apart from killings, Mallari disclosed that indigenous people also fall prey to intensive surveillance, intimidation and grave harassments like mauling by “unidentified men whom we believe have been sanctioned by the military.” CLAA is alarmed that Pres. Arroyo has declared Central Luzon, including their territories in Mt. Pinatubo and its periphery, as prime tourist destination.

Dumagats and Remontados are also alarmed by the impending construction of the Laiban Dam located in the boundary of Rizal and Quezon provinces, which the government claims will solve the water crisis in Metro Manila. “To this day, no justice has been rendered to the extrajudicial killing of my husband, Nicanor Delos Santos, who has openly condemned the revival of the Laiban Dam because it will directly affect eight barangays and submerge the farm lands of peasants and indigenous peoples,” Adeling Delos Santos, a Remontado, from Bigkis at Lakas ng Katutubo ng Timog Katagalugan (BALATIK) said.

The gathering of Luzon-based indigenous leaders is part of a commemoration of the Aug 9 Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples. In Manila, Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon indigenous peoples organizations will troop to stage dialogues and pickets in various national government agencies this week. Other activities to commemorate Indigenous Peoples Day will also be staged by KAMP’s affiliate organizations in Baguio City, Tuguegarao, Ilo-ilo and Davao City in the next few days.