MAC: Mines and Communities

As Gma Ups Mining Agenda: Igorots Picket Asia Pacific Mining Conference

Published by MAC on 2005-10-12
Source: Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA)

As GMA ups mining agenda: Igorots picket Asia Pacific Mining Conference

CORDILLERA PEOPLES ALLIANCE (CPA) Public Information Commission

12th October 2005

MAKATI CITY- Donned in their tapis and baag, Cordillera indigenous peoples picketed the Asia Pacific Mining Conference and 2005 Exhibit at the Shangrila Hotel in Makati on October 11, on a gathering of international mining corporations, graced herself by Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Representatives of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), Apit-Tako (Peasant Alliance in the Cordillera Homeland), Mankayan-Quirino-Tadian-Cervantes Danggayan a Gunglo (an alliance of communities along the Abra River), Lepanto Employees Union-NAFLU-KMU, the Metro Baguio Tribal Elders/Leaders Assembly, Save Apayao Peoples Organization and CPA-Kalinga, trooped to the conference, to condemn the GMA administration's relentless mining policy agenda and its impacts to indigenous peoples' collective rights and their ancestral lands.

"As a reliable puppet and driving force of imperialist impositions, the GMA regime has embarked on a policy to revitalize the mining industry in the context of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, said CPA Secretary General Windel Bolinget.

As of March 2005, 11 Financial and Technical Assistance Agreements (FTAAs) covering 879,886.95 of Cordillera land was applied for, according to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau-CAR.

Independent think-tank IBON reports that mining investments soared from the months of January to September 2005 amounting to $345 million, raked in through mining firms Coral Bay (Palawan Nickel Project), Lafayette Philippines Inc. (Rapu-Rapu Polymetallic Project), Australasian Philippines Mining Inc. (Didipio Copper-Gold Project), TVI Resources (Canatuan Gold Project), Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (Far Southeast Gold Project), Filmenera Resources (Masbate Gold Project) and Eagle Cement Corporation (Akle Cement Project).

CPA Chairperson Joan Carling said that the entry of corporate mining in indigenous peoples' lands is a clear form of development aggression and national oppression among IPs.

"Contrary to claims for its development contributions and for economic progress, affected indigenous communities have become more impoverished and deprived of their land and resource which is the material base of their culture and distinct lifestyle", she said.

In Ilokano, Kankanaey elder Simplicio Sicwan attested to this when he retold their struggle against Benguet Corporation's (BC) open-pit mining from 1989 to 1997 in Itogon, Benguet. Lakay (elder) Simplicio hails from the northern town of Bakun before settling in Itogon.

"The very destruction that BC caused our lands in Itogon is why we continue to fight for our right to land and resources", he said. He continued to share the current struggle of the Itogon folk against the Bulk Water Supply Project (BWSP), whose proponent is still the BC. "Benguet Corporation has taken away our lands, now it wants to take away our water. I am a no-read no-write person, but whenever the City Hall conducts public hearings on the BWSP, I do not let that hinder me from participating to guard my rights", he stressed.

Residents from Didipio Valley in Nueva Vizcaya joined the picket, along with farmers from Cagayan Valley, and member organizations under Defend Patrimony. Government has approved the first 100%-owend commercial mining production of Australia-based Climax-Arimco which will operate in Didipio, covering 21,465 hectares of land.

On October 10, Defend Patrimony, of which the CPA is a member organization, held a press conference and a forum in Quezon City on the people's continuing fight against corporate mining. Aside from the Cordillera mining situation, testimonies were delivered by representatives of LEU, SAPO, and MACQUITACDG on the alleged corporate and social responsibilities of large-scale mining.

Truncheon and shield-wielding elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) led by Col. Sumulong and Col. Napoles did not discourage the picketers from a program, despite repeated threats of dispersal from the police.

Bayan Muna Congressman Joel Virador joined the picketers and called on the GMA administration to heed the people's call against destructive mining projects. Virador was the keynote speaker in 21st Cordillera Day celebrations in Bangilo, Malibcong, Abra province.

Joining the nationwide call for GMA's ouster, the same demand was echoed at the close of the program to the resounding beat of gongs.

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