Filipino priest rewarded for his work on mining
Mines & Communities adds its voice to the congratulations being given to Father Edwin Gariguez on winning the 2012 Goldman Prize. The prestigious environmental award is for his advocacy work against Intex Resources' Mindoro Nickel Project. (See: Articles on Intex Reources) Aside from the personal kudos, it is evidence of the ongoing importance of the campaigns around mining in the Philippines.
|TVI Pacific's subsidiary has been barring entry of goods into the
minesite at Balabag, Zamboanga del Sur.
Photo: Froilan Gallardo, Mindadnews
For those following these updates, it will be no surprise that there's still no new Presidential Executive Order on mining (see: Philippines: Mining abuses continue with no promised changes in the law). The latest leaked information suggests the President's Office is now considering changes to legislation. This is no suprise for groups who have been campaigning against the 1995 Mining Act - and, indeed, have filed alternative mining bills, but they worry how such ideas will play out in reality.
The President has also been criticised for using power shortages in Mindanao as an excuse to railroad-through unwanted coal fired power stations.
An increasingly violent stand-off is taking place in Balabag on the Zamboanga Peninsula, as TVI attempts to force small-scale miners out of an exploration area that it claims (see photo).
Finally, we pass on our congratulations & solidarity to Mines & Communities editorial group the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, as they reflect on mining's development aggression during their annual Cordillera Day.
Filipino priest wins environmental award for work against nickel mine
By N.J. Viehland
National Catholic Reporter
17 April 2012
MANILA, Philippines -- A priest whose work protecting the environment by leading a grassroots movement was named Monday as one of six winners of the 2012 Goldman Environmental Prize, which honors grassroots environmental heroes from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Islands and Island Nations, North America and South and Central America.
Fr. Edwin Gariguez, 49, executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission on Social Action, Justice and Peace, was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for "fearless" leadership in protecting the environment and his community, the Goldman Environmental Foundation announced Monday.
The foundation noted the priest's leadership in a grassroots movement to protect the biodiversity of Mindoro Island in the northwestern Philippines as well as its indigenous Mangyan people from an illegal nickel mine.
"We are very happy that he got that significant international prize," said Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila, Gariguez's bishops' commission chairman.
Pabillo said the award shows the group's "recognition of what we are doing in Mindoro, protecting the indigenous people and protecting the environment especially against large-scale mining."
"We hope that this can be a big sign for people that there are others outside the Philippines who appreciate what we are doing to preserve the environment," the bishop said Tuesday.
Gariguez, nicknamed Father Edu, served as administrator of Mangyan Mission before he was appointed executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission on Social Action, Justice and Peace and its National Secretariat for Social Action in 2010.
He had come out of an 11-day anti-mining hunger strike with 25 Mangyans less than three months earlier to stop operations of the Norwegian mining company Intex.
No to Intex
The Goldman prize cited Gariguez's struggle in the late 1990s against Intex, then known as Mindex, when the company proposed to build an open-pit nickel mine near two biodiversity areas, using acid leaching process to reach mineral ores. The process would produce toxic waste.
Gariguez co-founded the Alliance Against Mining, a broad coalition of thousands of Mindoro residents, elected officials, civil society groups, church leaders and indigenous people who oppose mining on the island. Activists protesting with the group reportedly received threats of violence and verbal harassment.
After successful campaigns, the local government imposed a moratorium on mining on the island in 2002, a move Intex ignored, according to the Goldman Environmental Foundation's website. Gariguez went to Europe to address Norwegian parliamentarians and Intex shareholders and, with a Norwegian NGO, filed a complaint with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, according to the foundation.
In 2009, Gariguez led an 11-day hunger strike until the Philippines' Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) agreed to look into the alleged environmental and social violations of mining operations.
The department then indefinitely revoked Intex's permit and stopped mining operations, the prize's site states. Major funders, including Goldman Sachs, took away the company's funding, leading Intex to make an unsuccessful attempt to sell the $2.4 billion project in 2010. Shortly after the botched sale, Intex's CEO resigned because of "severe setbacks," according to the foundation.
For Judy Pasimio, who campaigned with Gariguez and the Alliance Against Mining, the award also "recognizes the contribution of the Church to ending the Mangyan's struggle with Intex."
"This struggle is not just about protecting the environment, but is really about the survival of the Mangyans, which Father Edu and the church fought for," Pasimio told NCR on Tuesday.
Pasimio said Gariguez's award highlights the role of the "barefoot priest."
"He is an example of the priest who does not just stand and preach in the pulpit, but who is really in touch 'with the people' he is serving," she said.
Scenes from the 2009 hunger strike linger vividly in Pasimio's memory, she said.
"After a few days, many people dropped out of the fast and headed back to Mindoro, but Father Edu would not leave as long as there were Mangyans protesting," she said.
Pasimio said she remembered Gariguez ignoring advice to lie down and conserve his energy during the hunger strike.
"He took public transport to radio stations, giving interviews," and to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to meet with the department secretary.
"That is what the hunger strike is for, to draw attention to the Mangyans' plight and press authorities, but we thought he could leave that to other people, since he would be feeling frail from fasting," she said.
But, she said, "seeing the Mangyans seemed to boost his energy."
In his acceptance message, Gariguez offered his prize to Mangyan people.
"It's not only money that counts for them, but also the spirit ties with the land, which mining companies do not understand," he told NCR before he received the award.
"It is very clear in the social teachings of the Church we are to take into consideration human rights, particularly of (indigenous people), and ensure that these would not be sacrificed for us to attract investment for corporations to profit," Gariguez said.
Goldman Prize winners
The Goldman Environmental Prize, now on its 23rd year, was established in 1989 by late San Francisco civic leaders and philanthropists Richard and Rhoda Goldman. The other award recipients, who were selected by an international jury, are:
* Ikal Angelei of Kenya, who is risking her life fighting the construction of the massive Gibe 3 Dam, which would block access to water for indigenous communities around Lake Turkana.
* Ma Jun of China, who is working with corporations to clean up their practices with an online database and digital map showing which factories are violating China's environmental regulations.
* Evgenia Chirikova of Russia, who is mobilizing fellow Russians to demand rerouting of a highway that would bisect Khimki Forest, Moscow's "green lungs."
* Caroline Cannon of the United States, who is battling with her Inupiat community in Point Hope in the Arctic Circle to keep Arctic waters safe from offshore oil and gas drilling.
* Sofia Gatica, an Argentine mother who, after losing her infant to pesticide poisoning, is organizing local women to stop indiscriminate spraying of toxic agrochemicals in neighboring soy fields.
Each winner will receive $150,000.
NGOs await the return of Fr. Edu Gariguez-2012 Goldman Environmental Awardee
Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) Press Release
18 April 2012
Describe him as a ‘barefoot priest', always in touch with the people
Manila-Groups here are excited to meet and congratulate Fr. Edwin Gariguez-one of this year's Goldman Environmental Award recipients.
Fr. Edu who received the award, annually given to "grassroots environmental heroes from each of the world's 6 inhabited continental regions," last April 16 at the San Francisco Opera House in the United States, offered his prize to the Mangyan people.
He said: "Protecting the rights of the poor should take precedence over corporate greed. Genuine development must prioritize the need to ensure ecological sustainability over market profitability. We must never sacrifice people and the environment for short-term benefit of the few."
Different groups here know the humble priest not only as an anti-mining advocate but a facilitator of change and social justice.
"The award to Fr. Edu is principally the recognition of the thirteen-year struggle of Alyansa Laban sa Mina (ALAMIN), a broad coalition of Mindoreños united against the Intex Resources Nickel Project which was organized in April 1999.
"As a priest of the Apostolic Vicariate of Calapan and member of the Mangyan Mission Fr. Edu was a catalyst in his leadership role of protecting and empowering the rights of the Mangyan Cultural Communities and their shared vision of ensuring stewardship and ecological sustainability of their ancestral lands for future generations," said Fr. Archie Casey, SX of the Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation.
Alyansa Tigil Mina is reminded of the perseverance of Fr. Edu when the Mangyans decided to go on hunger strike to oppose the Intex Nickel Project. Jaybee Garganera, ATM national coordinator said: "Fr. Edu is a genuine advocate of peoples rights, not only for the Mangyans of Mindoro but of all mining-affected communities in the country."
Judy Pasimio, executive director of Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center from 2009 to 2011 is reminded of Fr. Edu's strength during the Mindoro struggle and the hunger strike in 2009: "He is an example of the priest who does not just stand and preach in the pulpit, but who is really in touch 'with the people' he is serving. During the hunger strike, many people dropped out of the fast and headed back to Mindoro, but Fr. Edu would not leave as long as there were Mangyans protesting-at that time Fr. Edu and the group were willing to sacrifice their lives if the Department of Environment and Natural Resources will not hear their call."
Jon Sarmiento, member of Alyansa Laban sa Mina (ALAMIN) and a Mindoreño said, "Karapat-dapat lang sa kanya and award. Higit din sa Goldman Award ang pagmamahal at pakilala namin sa kanyang gawa-at nasa puso ng Mindoreño ‘yon. Hindi siya lehtimong taga-Mindoro pero itinaya niya ang kanyang buhay, oras at talino sa pakikibaka. Tunay siyang paring naglilingkod at huwaran sa pakikibaka." (Fr. Edu is truly deserving of the Goldman Award. People of Mindoro are proud of him and will forever be grateful for his sacrifice and efforts in his support in the sruggle against Intex Resources. He is not a legitimate Mindoreño but he selflessly offered his life for our struggle. He is a real servant leader and activist.)
"Masaya kami sa award niya at pinagmamalaki naming nakasama siya sa pagkilos," (We are happy and proud to be with him in our struggle.) Sarmiento added.
Fr. Edu is now for two years the Secretary-General of the Catholic Bishops Conferences of the Philippines-National Secretariat for Social Action-Justice and Peace (CBCP-NASSA).
Garganera added, "Now with CBCP-NASSA, he is playing a bigger role, not only for ALAMIN and the Mangyans but all indigenous and rural communities. He is also one of our champions in advocating the passage of a new minerals management policy that will ensure the rights of the people and protection of natural resources.
"This award should signal the need for the Aquino administration to ssue a new mining policy that reflect the principles and advocacies that Fr. Edu stands for," Garganera concluded.
ALAMIN's membership includes Mangyan Federations, civil society groups, Catholic and Protestant church leaders, NGOs, Peoples Organizations, schools, teachers and students, mountaineers and environmentalists, peasant groups, human rights advocates, elected officials at various levels of government and villages.
Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) is an alliance of mining-affected communities and their support groups of NGOs/POs and other civil society organizations who are opposing the aggressive promotion of large-scale mining in the Philippines. The alliance is currently pushing for a moratorium on mining, revocation of Executive Order 270-A, repeal of the Mining Act of 1995 and the passage of the Philippine Mineral Resources Act a.k.a. Alternative Minerals Management Bill.
For more information:
Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator, (0927) 761.76.02
Farah Sevilla, ATM Policy Research & Advocacy Officer, (0915) 331.33.61
Broad support for mining policy will only come with people's mining agenda
Kalikasan PNE Press Statement
20 April 2012
The broad support for a new mining policy being crafted by the administration of Pres. Benigno Simeon Aquino III can only come if it pushes the agenda of a people's mining, according to green groups under the Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment. According to the campaign network, 17 years under the onerous Mining Act of 1995 should suffice as basis for the passage of a new mining law.
"Judging from the provisions of the previous draft executive order on mining, the upcoming policies on mining from the Aquino administration seems to be contrary to the people's aspirations for environmental safety and community welfare. The new mining policy statement being floated by the government will not meet its objective of gathering the broad support of stakeholders if it will only build upon the years of irresponsible mining prescribed by the Mining Act of 1995," said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.
According to presidential communications secretary Ricky Caradang, government is taking time in the formulation of the policy statement, which is seen as a guide for executive and legislative steps taken for the multi-billion industry. He furthered that it was too early to say whether new legislation would be needed as a result of the new mining policy.
"We wonder why the urgency of implementing a new mining law has still not dawned on the Aquino government when the threats of large-scale, foreign mining to people and the environment are apparent across the country. Is the pollution of at least eight rivers and creeks in Surigao del Norte, the continued militarization of communities in the Cordilleras and the proliferation of large-scale mining in the small island ecosystems of Visayas not basis enough?" asked Bautista.
According to Bautista, "if the previously formulated draft executive order on mining were to serve as basis, it would still be unable to garner popular support. It sought to undermine the autonomous decision of local governments and communities by harmonizing local laws to the liberalization framework of the Mining Act of 1995, even if it is detrimental to their ecology and local development. It also aimed to expand more mineral reservations that prioritize mining over agriculture, tourism and even ancestral domains in their areas."
Mining was identified as among the top five greatest environmental concerns by environmental organizations during a forum on the 2012 State of the Philippine Environment last April 19. Green groups in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao are set to hold nationally-coordinated actions on the issue of mining plunder and liberalization to commemorate Earth Day on April 22.
Lawmaker to introduce Mining Act amendments
Sun Star Baguio
2 April 2012
IFUGAO Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr. wants to introduce various amendments to the Mining Act of 1995.
Baguilat pushed a House Bill on the New Mining Act because he wants an increase of revenues as share of local government units.
He also wants to increase the royalty share of the indigenous peoples of the country.
The representative is Congress' committee chairman on National Cultural Communities.
Baguilat stated on the proposed new mining act, there will be more environmental accountability and rigid implementation of the law.
He reiterated the proposed bill is not against mining. It will only choose areas wherein mining would not be allowed especially on protected areas like prime agricultural lands.
The bill is still under committee deliberation.
Baguilat said they will start the hearing one of these days with the presence of the Chamber of Mines, non-government organizations, local government units and the different concerned officials.
Meanwhile, Baguilat also pushed six other national bills in Congress including the Reproductive Health Bill, Forest Resources Bill, Logging Moratorium, National Land Use Act, Mineral Resources Act, and freedom of information to have transparency.
The Autonomy Bill and the conversion of certain national roads as well as creation of National High School in Ifugao are among the regional bills of Baguilat. (Rubyloida Bitog)
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on April 03, 2012.
Midnight coal power deals, abandonment of state responsibility to clean and affordable energy
Kalikasan Partylist press release
11 April 2012
The Aquino administration was hit today by environmental activists for railroading coal power plant deals in Mindanao, described as a clear abandonment of the state's responsibility to ensure clean and affordable energy in the Philippines. With only days left prior to an energy summit in Mindanao, the environmental political party Kalikasan Partylist criticized Pres. Benigno Aquino III for his continued pursuit of dirty coal power and dangerous nuclear power plant projects despite strong opposition and popular call to pursue clean alternatives.
"With the midnight approval of three coal-fired power plants amounting to 700 megawatts, it is becoming obvious that private energy corporations, especially those relentlessly pursuing the use of dirty fuels, are being coddled by PNoy. The Philippines already has 11 coal-fired power plants operating, two of which were inaugurated under PNoy. This is not the first time that one of PNoy's pet projects present serious environmental problems," said Leon Dulce, spokeperson of Kalikasan Partylist.
According to Kalikasan Partylist, scientific estimates put the average annual pollutive output of these three power projects at 11,100,000 tons of carbon dioxide, 30,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, 2,160 tons of carbon monoxide, and countless other toxic chemical compounds and heavy metals.
The environmental group Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) meanwhile pointed out how the Aquino administration is using the energy crisis in Mindanao to justify the further privatization of energy utilities through the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA). Since its passage in 2001, the EPIRA's privatization schemes have promoted the skyrocketing of electricity prices as dictated by independent power producers.
"PNoy is no different from former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who facilitated not only the entry of new dirty energy projects but also the wholesale of state-owned energy utilities, especially hydro-electric power plants. The Angat Dam, one of the remaining government-owned and controlled hydro plants, is under threat of privatization by PNoy. Privatization is the root of the energy crisis, this is what must be reformed," said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.
The Kalikasan Partylist reiterated that the government should develop and operate an affordable, indigenous and state-run renewable energy industry as a viable alternative to the promotion of dangerous and dirty energy sources, such as coal and nuclear power.
"The context of the worsening energy and climate crises is reason enough to dismantle EPIRA and put in place a state-run energy industry with particular emphasis for renewable energy. This will ensure not only the provision of clean and affordable energy sources, but also ensure the industry's independence from the whims and dictates of private power producers," ended Dulce.###
Reference: Leon Dulce 09175626824
Clemente Bautista 09228449787
Cordillera Day 2012 Central Statement
24 April 2012
Cordillera Peoples Alliance
Ilaban ti Daga, Biag ken Karbengan!
Fight for Our Land, Life and Rights!
We mark Cordillera Day 2012 with a rallying call to fight for our ancestral lands, our lives and human rights through a week of protest activities and celebrations of indigenous peoples' struggles in Apayao, Abra, Benguet, Kalinga, Ifugao, the Mountain Province and Baguio City. On this 28th Cordillera Day, let our protests echo with renewed vigor and commitment to defend our ancestral lands against development aggression. Let us strengthen and sustain our protests in the communities, town centers and urban areas. Let us build on our humble victories, remember the legacy of our heroes and martyrs, and prepare ourselves for challenges ahead.
Fight for Land...
Sustained people's resistance has prevented many large mining companies from pursuing their operations and expansion in the Cordillera. The combined legal and political actions of the Bakun communities has delayed Royalco'sexploration for the Gambang Copper-Gold Project. The people of Gambang barricaded the road when Royalco attempted to bring its equipment into the area it had marked off for Phase III of its exploration. Still in Benguet province, sustained community barricades have prevented Lepanto and the South African mining company Goldfields from conducting exploration drilling for the Far Southeast Gold Project. Lepanto has also failed to secure local government endorsements for its expansion into Tadian, Bauko, Sagada, Bontoc and Sadanga the in Mountain Province. In Kalinga province, the Salegseg tribe and the local government of Tabuk maintain their opposition to Lepanto. In Abra, Lepanto and the smaller firm Vegas have failed to enter Malibcong, where community opposition to large mining is solid and backed by the Roman Catholic Church.
Opposition to large mining is widespread in Abra and has formally been registered with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) by the communities of Tubo, Bucloc, Baay-Licuan and Lacub. In Lacub, though, Golden Lake - with the active collaboration of the Mayor, Vice Mayor, their private armies and the 41st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army - has been trying to thwart the people's will through coercion, bribery, and the manipulation of the Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) process.
To strengthen our campaign for our peoples' rights, we have established broad networks such as the Benguet-Abra-Mountain Province-Ilocos Sur (BAMPIS) Mining Watch and the Northern Luzon-wide Amianan Salakniban. However, our communities must sustain their militancy in guarding against the following: Royalco drilling at Phase I in Bakun; Goldfields drilling for the expansion of Lepanto Tailings Dam 5A; Solfotara's renewal of its efforts to obtain FPIC from the peoples of Bucloc and Tubo, following its fraudulent acquisition of FPIC from the peoples of Boliney and Daguioman, Abra; Golden Lake's continuing attempts to achieve the same in Lacub and repeat this in Tubo, Abra; the continuing efforts of Malibato-Freeport to enter Besao, Mountain Province; possible resumption of Makilala-Freeport's exploration and ore extraction activities in Balatoc, Pasil, Kalinga; Freeport's ongoing Field Based Investigation in Guinaang, Pasil; Nickel Asia's renegotiation for FPIC in Buwaya, Balbalan. Company security forces and pressure from collaborators in the local government has meanwhile forced some communities of Conner in Apayao to consent to Nickel Asia's exploration. Vast hectares of land extending from Tineg southward to Sallapadan in Abra are now under threat from Grand Total.
Still on the mining front, small miners in Gold Creek, Ucab, Itogon have barricaded their mining location against a realtor who purchased the title to the land from Benguet Corporation (BC). BC's old mining locations in Antamok and Acupan are still being worked by small miners under contract to Korean capitalists to whom BC has sold the rights to the remaining ore. The ore is embedded in mine pillars, and extracting it is dangerous both to the miners and the communities occupying the surface. BC has also sold its waste, impounded in several tailings dams in the vicinity of Antamok and Acupan, to a Chinese corporation. Chinese and Korean firms are contracting the services of small miners in various parts of the Cordillera - most notably Patiacan in Quirino, Ilocos Sur, Mainit in Bontoc, Mountain Province, and Balatoc in Pasil, Kalinga - to mine copper ore as well as the gold and silver that invariably come with the copper.
Driven by consistently high world prices for gold and base metals like copper, small mining has spread throughout Cordillera. One of the major challenges we face today is the transformation of intensive, anarchic and increasingly destructive small mining activities into a responsible village industry that is actively regulated by communities in accordance with the ecologically sound natural resource management systems which are traditional to their cultures.
There is a surge of hydro and geothermal power projects in the region, propelled by offers of grants and loans from global financing institutions for the development of non-carbon energy sources. In Kalinga, the global giant Chevron is poised to open a vast complex of geothermal fields in Tinglayan, Pasil and Lubuagan but, denied the consent of the Dananao and Uma tribes, has been unable to complete its project's FPIC requirements. Small companies are trying to get the technical and social preparations for other geothermal projects off the ground and will likely sell to Chevron, the sole geothermal power plant operator in the country, after completing these. Their project sites include Mainit-Sadanga in the Mountain Province, just south of Tinglayan; Sallapadan-Bucloc-Boliney-Tubo just west of Tinglayan and Sadanga; Buguias-Tinoc in Benguet and Ifugao; Acupan also in Benguet. However, one project, in Bokod, Benguet, has continually and consistently been opposed by the affected communities.
In the field of hydropower, the company Aboitiz stands out, with its subsidiaries SN Aboitiz Power, Luzon Hydro and Hedcor. Using grants and loans extended by the World Bank and the Royal Norwegian Government, SN Aboitiz Power has been able to purchase three old megadams, Ambuclao, Binga, and Magat. Luzon Hydro has been able to start operating its huge and extensive underground hydro, Bakun AC, disrupting the normal flow of water and wreaking havoc on agricultural production all the way from Bakun, Benguet to Alilem, Ilocos Sur. In addition to another, run-of-the-river hydro that it has been operating in Bakun and seven other mini-hydros in the Baguio-Benguet area, Hedcor has ten more mini-hydro projects in the offing in Benguet plus one in the Mountain Province. An Aboitiz monopoly of hydropower is clearly taking shape in the southern Cordillera.
Run-of-the-river mini-hydro projects are also underway in Tinoc, Kiangan and Lagawe, Ifugao and Balbalan, Kalinga. And there are plans for the construction of mini-hydros in Sagada, Sadanga, Barlig and Natonin in the Mountain Province. While run-of-the-river hydropower projects are environment friendly, questions remain as to whether communities can retain control of their resources once they let the project developers into their territories, and whether they can obtain just shares in the benefits from the use of these resources.
In Kalinga, three of the four hydro projects that have been awarded by the Department of Energy involve the construction of inherently destructive large dams. Two of these are on the Pasil river, one on the Tanudan. Nothing has yet taken place in connection with the Pasil dams, but the Tanudan dam has already generated considerable controversy. The dam project proponent, Kalinga Hydropower, Inc. (KHI), has provided misleading information to the community in whose territory it aims to build the dam; tried to bribe this community with promises of economic gain; misrepresented itself as a local firm that the community itself incorporated; divided the Naneng, the tribe in which the community belongs; undermined the system of decision-making traditional to the Naneng and the neighboring tribes. KHI has, in sum, violated the integrity and impaired the self-determination of the Naneng and the neighboring tribes. Our protest has, however, derailed derailed its "social preparations" for the project.
Even the City of Baguio is not spared from environmental and economic threats. The giant corporation SM is geared towards expanding its operations and building a parking facility that will wipe out the remaining pine and alnos trees in the city's central business district. Despite widespread protest by Baguio's environmentalists, students, church people, and general populace, SM has been able to start taking down the trees primarily because of the collusion of key officials in the local government and the DENR. If SM succeeds in pursuing it, the project will have long-term impact on the environment and land rights of the people of Baguio.
...Fight for Life
As militarization remains a constant companion to development aggression in the Cordillera, three regular and two special battalions of the AFP are deployed to areas where foreign interest in mining and energy is greatest. The main AFP units operating in the region are the 503rd Brigade's 41st Infantry Battalion (IB) in Abra and its 50th IB in Abra, Ilocos Sur and Benguet; the 501st Brigade's 21st IB in Kalinga and its 54th IB in the Mountain Province and Ifugao; the 86th IB which is based in Ifugao but whose companies are distributed in various parts of the region; the 77th IB, the CAFGU Cadre Corps which is also distributed throughout the region; the 52nd and 53rd Division Reconnaisance Companies which are actually crack teams. All are under the 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army based in Gamu, Isabela.
Intense military operations have been taking place in Abra and its boundaries with the Mountain Province and Ilocos Sur - an area densely covered by mining applications. The 41st and 50th IBs are in cahoots with local warlords in facilitating the entry of large mining in Abra. In Tubo, Daguioman, Malibcong, Lacub and Tineg, they have been meddling in decision-making processes regarding large mining applications, trying to intimidate communities into granting consent.
Under the regime's Oplan Bayanihan, we have witnessed continuing rights violations in the Cordillera and elsewhere in the country. Communities and progressive people's organizations continue to be vilified as terrorists or terrorist fronts and attacked as military targets. Extrajudicial killing, the militarization of communities and the filing of criminal charges against members and leaders of people's organizations continue. Clearly, Oplan Bayanihan is nothing but a continuation of Oplan Bantay Laya. Military operations are carried out in the guise of "peace and development operations", which are ultimately aimed at deceiving the people and hiding the military's true intent of counter-insurgency and political repression.
Community life is disrupted and much terror is sown among civilians as the military detaches its forces to villages and conducts counter-insurgency operations. In Tubo, Abra, the 50th IB has fired mortars on villages and burned forests in its desperation to inflict casualties on the NPA. Elements of the 50th IB have also destroyed fences that prevented carabaos from wandering off. As a result, several carabaos have fallen into ravines. The carabao is an important property for indigenous peasants, who are largely engaged in subsistence agriculture. Bombing also took place in Tineg in 2011 and Balbalan, Kalinga in 2010; forest burning in Tineg in 2011, and in Malibcong and the Sagada-Besao area of the Mountain Province in 2010. The AFP must be held accountable for these environmental crimes and injustices committed against the indigenous peoples. Other communities experiencing military brutality as a result of Oplan Bayanihan are those along the boundaries of Paracelis, Mountain Province and Alfonso Lista and Aguinaldo, Ifugao.
Alarming cases of vilification of innocent civilians have been documented throughout the region. Vilification - i.e., red-tagging or red-labeling and, worse, demonizing - is aimed not only at discrediting an individual or organization but at justifying actions that will harm them politically, morally or physically. Since Oplan Bantay Laya, the military has been using vilification to prepare the public to accept its extrajudicial killing, abduction, unlawful arrest, imprisonment and torture of specific individuals; its mutilation of the corpses of NPA fighters that it has slain in combat; its killing of civilians during combat operations and its laying siege to villages in areas where the NPA is active. With Oplan Bayanihan, the military has extended the use of vilification to scaring students - particularly the scholars of the Kabataan, Act and Gabriela partylists - away from involvement in the progressive youth movement and into employment as civilian intelligence operatives in state colleges and universities.
The AFP has been violating children's rights. It has been recruiting children into its barangay intelligence networks. It has been encamping in schools, daycare centers and health centers throughout the region. In 2011, its soldiers forcibly detained Tineg elementary students in their classrooms and, shutting the doors and firing their weapons outside, scared the children into silence then lectured them against joining, supporting and listening to the NPA. In Mainit, Bontoc, Mountain Province, soldiers beat up teenagers just for failing to behave towards them with respect.
As part of Oplan Bayanihan, the AFP extends services to children, such as free haircuts, free circumcision and the painting, repair or construction of their schools. These activities are used to justify the AFP's unlawful encampment in schools, daycare centers and health centers. They are also vital to the AFP's propaganda campaign - particularly to projecting soldiers as the servants of the common people rather than the protectors of the interests of the ruling classes.
The AFP's soldiers have raped, and sexually and morally abused many women. The latest incident took place just last February, when Captain Danilo Lalin, formerly of the 50th IB and now of the 86th, abducted a pretty 16-year old high school student in Mankayan, drugged her and brought her to a series of military camps where she was gang-raped. Previously, Lalin seduced another Mankayan girl, also just 16 years old. Another rape occurred in Lacub in 2011, along with numerous instances of seduction followed by abandonment. Similar incidents have been reported in Kalinga and the Mountain Province. The cases are so numerous, it now seems like the sexual degradation of community women is integral to the AFP's political repression strategy and counter-insurgency tactics.
The paramilitary group that calls itself the Cordillera People's Liberation Army (CPLA) is making a comeback. One faction - that led by Mailed Molina of Abra - hires its members out to mining companies as private security forces. Another - that led by Arsenio Humiding of Ifugao - creates livelihood for its members using a 35 million peso budget from Malacañang. It is allotted a separate budget managed by the AFP for the projects undertaken in coordination with local government units. This in spite of its record of crime, including the abduction and killing of CPA leaders like Ama Daniel Ngayaan and Romy Gardo, the instigation of tribal wars, extortion and various acts of violence perpetrated on civilians.
As in the 1980s, the CPLA is once again aggressively creating opportunities for itself with the third attempt at creating a law for an autonomous Cordillera region.
On this matter, CPA iterates that regional autonomy can only be genuine if it addresses indigenous peoples' particular problem of national oppression. Genuine regional autonomy is based on indigenous peoples' rights and the right to self determination or the right to freely decide on their social, cultural, political and economic life. This includes genuine people-based development on livelihood, social services and the economy. Regional autonomy must be understood in its full substance as the exercise of self determination, not just devolution or decentralization of governance powers and administration. Neither is it only about funds and projects, and it should not dismember the Cordillera as one integral region of dominantly indigenous peoples. Like the past two failed attempts of traditional politicians and a few ruling elite to create an autonomous Cordillera region, this third attempt, now dubbed House Bill 5595, is bogus regional autonomy, and is oriented at facilitating further plunder of indigenous peoples' ancestral lands by capitalist projects, and thereby aggravating the violation of rights of the Cordillera peoples. House Bill 5595 gives teeth to the national government's program for a liberalized mining industry, and will accelerate the plunder of the Cordillera. Thus, we challenge and appeal to legislators, especially the Cordillera congressmen, to heed the people's clamor and not insist on bogus regional autonomy. Only when indigenous peoples' rights are respected and recognized can we truly build the blocks for genuine regional autonomy. Large mining, militarization, vilification and the plunder of the Cordillera must first stop.
The entry of large destructive projects show clearly the State's continuing policy of using the Cordillera region as a resource base for massive plunder and super profits. Sixty-six percent or about 1.2 million hectares of the region's 1.8 million hectare-land area is presently blanketed with overlapping mining applications. The applications and expansion of large mines are clear manifestations that the Aquino II regime is continuing the programs and policies of the discredited Arroyo regime. The surge of energy projects is clearly there to provide the energy and power supply of the big mines and other capitalist investments. In the course of desperate attempt to enter our Cordillera communities, these development aggression projects have violated indigenous peoples' inherent right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent and collective rights to ancestral land and resources. In the numerous and various cases of rights violations, the State military is an accomplice of these large transnational corporations. Large mines and energy projects will surely aggravate the effects and impact of the climate crisis, which in turn will adversely affect indigenous peoples whose lives and culture are deeply entwined and rooted in the land and its resources.
On top of these urgent issues is government's aggressive tourism program that commercializes, misrepresents and disrespects indigenous peoples' culture, which to us is sacred, as our way of life and as our distinct identity.
Like the majority of Filipinos, the majority of people in the Cordillera region suffer from worsening poverty and hunger due to the economic crisis. Wages and salaries are way too insufficient to meet the daily cost of living, yet prices of basic commodities, services and transportation keep rising, as a result of the deregulated oil industry. In the Cordillera, minimum daily wage is pegged at P260, yet P941 is needed so that a family of 6 can survive daily, decently. Oil prices increased over 9 times since January 2012, plunging the ordinary Filipino into deeper poverty and hunger. As in other parts of the country, there is a lack of secure and stable employment in the region, while those employed are continually confronted with massive retrenchment and contractualization.
Under the Aquino II regime, the economic and political crisis is as entrenched as ever, with PNoy bearing little or no difference at all from the Arroyo regime , with continuing policies of State terrorism and liberalization of the Philippine economy. All these add to the challenges that Cordillera indigenous peoples face, apart from the increasingly aggressive incursions on our ancestral domains.
These developments at the regional level show that the present Aquino regime has done nothing to improve the situation of Cordillera indigenous peoples. It has done the complete opposite, by actively selling out our national patrimony to transnational corporations, and sustaining State terrorism. PNOy continues to use military terrorism, like the regime before him, to secure the State's political and economic interests, much to the suffering and violation of people's rights. PNOy's continuing policy of plunder and militarization are paving the way to ethnocide of the Cordillera indigenous peoples. Like other puppet regimes before him, PNoy's policies and programs demonstrate subservience to imperialist globalization and the US-led war of terror.
There is mounting public discontent, as PNoy's "matuwid na daan" and "kayo ang boss ko" amounted to nothing. Deceptive programs like the conditional cash transfer and pantawid pasada program do not at all improve the ordinary Filipino's standard of living. What the people need is immediate relief from the economic hardship that is plunging them deeper into greater hunger and poverty.
...Fight for Our Rights!
These developments depict continuing and worsened national oppression for us indigenous peoples, on top of the unbearable economic hardship and political crisis we face as Filipinos. Thus, we must resist fiercely, fight for our human dignity, and defend our ili, ancestral domain, our environment and natural resources.
This Cordillera Day 2012, our cries to defend our land, life, honor and rights must resonate in the numerous protest celebrations in Apayao, Abra, Benguet, Ifugao, Mountain Province, Kalinga and Baguio City. We will seal Cordillera Day 2012 with covenants and declarations against mining, militarization, energy projects, agricultural liberalization and environmental destruction. We must step up our protests at all levels, using various forms of mass actions, advocacy, networking, legislation and lobbying.
Let us celebrate our victories, at the same time pay tribute to all those who sacrificed their lives for the struggle. We must fight for our survival and honor, for the sake of generations yet to come. We must strengthen our unity and solidarity as a people together with other oppressed and exploited classes against a common enemy. We must assert our human rights and our self-determination as a people in the form of genuine Cordillera regional autonomy within a sovereign and democratic Philippines.
Cordillera Day 2012 is a living testament to the Cordillera peoples' relentless fight for our land, lives, and rights.
Cordillera Peoples Alliance
For the Defense of the Ancestral Domain and for Self Determination
Bestang Sarah Dekdeken
CORDILLERA PEOPLES ALLIANCE
No. 55 Ferguson Road
Baguio City 2600, Philippines
Tel. No. (63) 74 304-4239
Fax No. (63) 74 443-7159
Standoff in Balabag as large and small-scale miners fight for rights over gold-rich area
By Carolyn O. Arguillas
15 April 2012
BALABAG, Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur (MindaNews/15 April) - The Municipal Peace and Order Council (MPOC) on Friday passed an "urgent" resolution asking the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB) to immediately resolve the conflict between a large-scale mining firm and a small-scale mining group to avoid a potentially bloody confrontation in this gold-rich area.
"They (PMRB) should act now or else it will be bloody," Mayor Leonardo Babasa told MindaNews late Friday afternoon, about an hour after members of the Monte de Oro Small-Scale Mining Association (Mossma) who staged a rally at the junction in Sitio Balabag, Barangay Depore, attempted to remove the barricade at the Inter-Agency (IA) checkpoint here to allow trucks bearing diesel fuel to proceed to the minesite. The fuel is needed to run their rod mills and cyanidation plants.
Tension heightened on Saturday afternoon, the second day of the rally when Mossma members forced their way through, allowing three trucks bearing drums of diesel fuel to enter, Babasa told MindaNews by phone late Saturday night. He said blue guards of the TVI Resource Development (Phils) Inc.. Philippine affiliate of TVI Pacific, Inc., a publicly listed Canadian mining firm, fired shots at the tires but the trucks still managed to pass through.
Mayor Babasa told MindaNews Sunday evening that the town's Crisis Management Committee met earlier that morning and passed a resolution asking TVI to maintain the status quo by allowing the entry of diesel fuel in the minesite. He said TVI can bar the entry of illegal materials such as cyanide but diesel fuel should be allowed in pending the PMRB's resolution on the mining rights issue. He also said they asked Mossma members for sobriety. No rally was held on Sunday.
Since April 5, trucks bearing diesel fuel and mining-related chemicals and tools, have been barred entry at the IA checkpoint, with TVI claiming it has rights over the gold-rich area as holder of a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) over 4,779 hectares, under the Mining Act of 1995. Mossma, on the other hand, claims it has prior rights under the People's Mining Act of 1991 over a portion of TVI's MPSA, which it has been mining allegedly since the mid-1980s and which it had repeatedly petitioned to be segregated from TVI's MPSA and declared as Minahang Bayan or People's Small-Scale Mining Area
Pastor Albert Tiondo, Mossma's Indigenous Peoples-Community Development Facilitator, told MindaNews Friday that they massed up in front of the IA checkpoint to air their sentiments over the alleged cutting off of their water system by TVI, harassments and this recent ban on entry of diesel fuel and mining-related needs. He also claimed the company imposed a "food blockade," a claim TVI denied.
"We will not eat, Sir?
"We are not barring the entry of rice and food supply," said retired Col. Cip Bayan, TVI's head of security at the IA checkpoint. He told MindaNews on Friday afternoon that what they are barring is the entry of materials "used in illegal mining."
He said rice and food supply are allowed into the mining site but the miners refuse to bring in the rice without the diesel fuel.
Anna Marie Garcia, who operates a rod mill at the minesite, cut off the rope of the checkpoint's boom using a lighter last Friday and pushed the barricade in an attempt to let the trucks pass. She told MindaNews they need the diesel to get the rod mills operating, so they can earn and be able to buy food.
Diesel is also needed to operate the CIP (carbon-in-pulp) cyanidation plants.
When Bayog police chief Sr. Insp. Daniel Pel-ey and 53rd Infantry Battalion chief Lt. Col. Nasser Pendatun tried to pacify Garcia by saying they will bring the matter to their superiors, she asked, "So gikan karon adalawa taman usa ka bulan maghulat mi sa inyong giingann nga tawagan? Dili na mi mangaon sir? Di na mi manganon?" (So starting today until one month later, while we wait for the response of those you will call, we will not eat anymore, Sir? We will not eat?).
"Ultimo giutang tulo ka sakong bugas wala na miy ikabayad gumikan kay wa mi crudo. Karon lang nakiusap mi, karon lang di nyo kami mapagbigyan?" (The three sacks of rice we can't pay for anymore because we don't' have diesel (to run the rod mills). We are pleading now, can't you allow us?" she asked.
TVI's Makati-based Public Affairs Director Ron Jabal told MindaNews on Saturday: "what they conveniently forget to say is that they are operating illegally hence are technically engaged in minerals theft. (Diesel) is not being allowed because this is used in the illegal operations. What they conveniently don't discuss is the use of child labor and the use of environmentally destructive and unsafe methods and processes."
"The real issue here is who has the legal right to minerals development and who can better provide safe mining projects that contribute to host and impact communities. We believe that governmen and the TVI can do this and not the illegal small-scale mining operators and financiers," he said
Mossma has repeatedly stressed in its petitions that it has prior rights in the area.
"There's a standoff," Babasa told MindaNews late Friday afternoon, adding the PMRB should immediately resolve the issu
But the PMRB in its last meeting on February 17 gave Mossma, TVI and itself 90 days ":including the mailing and furnishing of copies of the position papers and other supporting documents that the parties may submit."
Ninety days from February 17 is May 17, after which "the matter will be evaluated by the Board and another meeting will be scheduled for the deliberations and decision."
Reports on the complaints of Mossma members over the alleged harassment by TVI and the banned entry of diesel fuel have reached Governor Antonio Cerilles but he told MindaNews on Thursday that as the MPSA holder, "it is the obligation of TVI to police their area."
Cease and Desist Order
Cerilles, who served as Environment Secretary under the Estrada administration, and is PMRB vice chair (the chair is MGB regional director Albert Johann Jacildo), maintained the small-scale miners are operating illegally, have no permits issued by government, have no environmental clearance certificates while TVI has an MPSA issued by government.
Minutes of the February 17 PMRB meeting, a copy of which was given to MindaNews by TVI, showed that apart from the 90-day period as agreed upon by Mossma, TVI and the PMRB, the PMRB "unanimously agreed to issue Cease and Desist Order (CDO) to all illegal mining operations/activities in the Province of Zamboanga del Sur" which it described as a "reinforcement effort to the 2 CDOs issued before by DENR, MGB/EMB last 2003 and by the Prov. Governor Aurora Cerilles of Zamboanga del Sur last June 2010, although the latter ones were issued specifically against the operations at Balabag, Bayog."
TVI's Dennis Baguio of Public Affairs and Pablo Luyao of Community Relations, told MindaNews last Friday that Jacildo had yet to sign the CDO although they stressed this was a "reinforcement effort."
MindaNews sought Jacildo for verification but he could not be reached.
Mossma's claimed portion within TVI's MPSA is less than a hundred hectares. Mossma technical consultant and spokesperson Edgar Baling claims the area they are fighting for is only about 20 hectares. Mossma's petition before the Panel of Arbitrators of the Mines and Geo-Sciences Bureau (MGB) on March 20, 2012 cites 40 hectares while its September 6, 2011 letter to MGB chief Leo Jasareno put the figure at "more or less 80 hectares."
TVI geologist Jay Elvina, OIC of the Balabag Exploration Project said the contested area is about 10 hectares with a confirmed presence of about 100,000 ounces of gold and a life of mine of "five to 10 years."
An ounce of gold at Sunday's trading price costs USD 1,657.38 per ounce or PhP70,670.68.
TVI has been negotiating with Mossma members and has compensated a number of them for the dismantling of their structures at the minesite and signing a waiver and quitclaim. But a number of miners have refused to vacate the area.
Pastor Tiondo said that since TVI's negotiations, there remains only about "3,000 to 4,000" miners, workers and family members at the minesite now, compared with "5,000 to 6,000" before. He said the number of rod mill operators has gone down to 24 from 30 and the cyanidation plants or carbon-in-pulp plants is down to 21 operators with 45 tanks, from 24 operators
Mossma members decried a supposed "silent attack" to demolish the remaining structures at the minesite owned by 17 Mossma members, including the big-time financiers of the small-scale mining operations, on or before April 1, according to alleged e-mail exchanges that Baling said were leaked to the group by a TVI insider. TVI's Jabal said the e-mail exchanges were "fabricated" while Governor Cerilles, who was implicated in the e-mails as having consented to the demolition said these were "false documents."
No demolition occurred before April 1 but effective April 5, trucks bearing diesel fuel and other mining-related needs were barred from entering, effectively paralyzing operations.
A visit to the minesite on Friday showed several rod mills lying idle although a few were still milling ore.
Friday's tension at the checkpoint was not as much as Saturday's when Mossma members managed to let three trucks pass.
"Gilata nila sa bala ang sakyanan" (They fired at the vehicles), Tiondo told MindaNews by telephone.
Arandy Silva, Mossma's chief operations officer said the police ordered those who attended the rally to go home to avoid violence.
Baling said "wala na kaagwanta, ang mga tao gidasmagan ang boom sa checkpoint. Gi-strafing (sa TVI) ang sakyanan" (they could not take it anymore so the people decided to force their way through. TVI strafed the vehicles).
TVI's incident report from Balabag, furnished to MindaNews by Jabal noted that some 200 Mossma members, around the same number in Friday's rally, chanted and demanded the entry of trucks loaded with diesel.
The TVI report said representatives of Mossma members led by Lalang Paquit sought permission at the IA checkpoint to allow the entry of rice. "We replied that they are free to get the rice but not the diesel-filled drums along with it," the report said.
At around 4 p.m., the report added, Mossma members "started to converge violently at the boom area, throwing rocks and started to forcibly open the boom and remove the barricades and the PNP immediately formed a human barricade to block the picketers. However, the picketers were able to push and shove and overpower the authorities that made possible the entry of three trucks loaded with diesel which prompted the blue guards stationed at the boom to shoot at the tires. The trucks were able to travel all the way up to the Site area running on flat tires."
It added that two TVI guards "were hit by stones on their forehead causing minor open wound injuries."
Commisioner Jose Manuel Mamauag of the Commission on Human Rights told MindaNews on Saturday that they will send CHR personnel to the minesite to initiate a dialogue between the contending parties and to monitor the situation there. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)