Tuesday, September 25, 2007

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.

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