MAC/20: Mines and Communities

The Rights Of The Indigenous People To Their Ancestral Lands Is Scared

Published by MAC on 2006-10-18

The rights of the indigenous people to their ancestral lands is scared

Fr. Shay Cullen, Preda

18th October 2006

When Charlie Daylo was shot and murdered by an execution squad a few months ago, his name was added to a growing list of victims of committed people working for social development and justice. Charlie was a leader of an indigenous group of Filipinos whose ancestral lands are being violated by land grabbers and industrial mining corporations.

The Philippine business elite and their cronies in government are only to happy to satisfy these appetites no matter the cost to the environment and the lives of the impoverished Filipinos. While an estimated 200 families wallow in vast wealth and own almost everything, the majority of Filipinos owns almost nothing and is drowning in poverty. Those lucky to get an education flee abroad for decent wages and a life of dignity.

Charlie helped organize a protest campaign by the indigenous people and got legal help. Only then were the trespassing bulldozers and excavation machines pulled out. It was just a small victory but Charlie paid for it with his life, hundreds of activists, Christians and even more recently a bishop, have been murdered fighting for justice.

The Philippine constitution says that all foreign corporations investing in the Philippines must have a joint venture ownership, 60 percent Filipino and 40 percent foreign. This was designed to prevent the domination of the national economy, natural resources and land by foreign nationals. The Filipino wealthy prefers to give mining rights to international corporations for a fee and take on sub-contracting work themselves.

The elite industrialists through their tight control of congress passed the Mining Act in 1995 which gave one hundred percent ownership control to the foreign investment corporations. The vast earnings would be repatriated to their home countries after their Filipino cronies and officials got their kickbacks. The natural resources would be literally given away for a pittance and there would be little or nothing to elevate the poverty of the people. But they were thwarted in this immoral plan.

The Filipino people organized, rallied, marched, and rightly demanded the law be declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court and it eventually was. There was great rejoicing that justice had >been done. It was yet to be undone.

It was not until there was new membership of the Supreme court, some appointed by the President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that a new move was made by Jose de Venecia, Speaker of the Congress to pressure and persuade the Supreme Court members to reverse themselves. Unthinkable to most people of the international community but yet anything is possible in the Philippines. On a International mining promotion tour with the leaders of the Philippine mining industry and other Filipino politicians speaking to investors in London in June 2005 he said in part: “…most difficult to overcome were the ideological constraints on mining and other commerce having to do with national Patrimony, prohibitions imposed by an inward kind of nationalism, protectionist provisions in our constitution which limit foreign participation to mining, agriculture, public utilities and even publishing have choked the foreign inflow of foreign direct investment.

Mr. De Venecia said he was Speaker of Congress when the Mining Act of 1995 was passed and felt insulted when it was declared unconstitutional and decided to mobile society and ...”we decided to mount a strong campaign to get the Supreme court to reverse itself. It was a difficult task, to get 15 proud men and women of the Supreme Court to reverse themselves but we succeeded. Finally the law was declared constitutional and this was the signal for the captain[s] of industry in America, Australia, and in Europe, in New Zealand, in Canada, in France, in England and the European community, in the international community (to) go back to the Philippines and take a good strong second look at our mining potential…”

Many people admire and know Filipinos as intelligent, hard working, well educated and wonder how a nation of 86 million people could suffer and live in such poverty ­now they know, everything is owned by greedy and avaricious elite that sell the nation for personal gain. End. (Fr. Shay’s book, Passion and Power, an Irish Missionary’s fight against child sex slavery will be published in Ireland 1 November. To reserve a copy write to Fr. Shay Cullen, Preda–Ireland, 84 Adelaide Road, Glenageary, Co. Dublin.)

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