Tuesday, September 25, 2007

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”.

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