MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Clear and Present Danger among Environmental Activists in Philippines

Published by MAC on 2005-04-15

Clear and Present Danger among Environmental Activists

Kalikasan-PNE Press Statement

April 15, 2005

This April 22, people will celebrate Earth Day. Sadly, environmental activists who work for the protection of the environment and the rights of ordinary people are facing clear and present danger.

Recent incidents show how leaders of indigenous peoples, environmental activists and church people actively opposing large-scale transnational mining projects under the government's mining liberalization program have come under threat of extinction. In February and March, three environmental activists were killed and one critically wounded.

Last March 9, Romy Sanchez, a convenor of MASAKBAYAN, (Makabayang Samahan para sa Bayan at Kalikasan) and the Northern Luzon regional coordinator of Bayan Muna Partylist, was gunned down by an unidentified assassin in broad daylight in Baguio City. He was also an active member of STARM or the Save the Abra River Movement.

MASAKBAYAN and STARM actively campaigned for the protection of the Abra River and opposed the destruction and plunder by Lepanto Mining Corporation in Benguet province. Days before his assassination, Mr. Sanchez attended a Cordillera regional conference on mining issues. Also last January 2005, Mr Sanchez participated in the National Campaign Consultation on Anti-Mining TNCs organized by Kalikasan-PNE.

On February 19, 2005, two Aeta leaders of Central Luzon Aeta Association (CLAA), Joel Pelayo and Rodel Abraham, were assassinated in Balanga, Bataan. The two Aetas and the CLAA have staunchly opposed the land grabbing and mining operations of Dizon Mining Corporation in their communities. The said mining corporation has an 11,000-hectare mining concession in the Zambales, Bataan and Pampanga tri-boundary.

On February 18, an attempt was made on the lives of Fr. Allan Caparro of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente and his wife in Abuyog, Leyte. Both were critically wounded by their assailants.

Fr. Caparro is a well-known anti-mining activist in Samar and the vice-chairman of the Promotion of Church People's Response-Eastern Visayas. Samar is one of the priority mining areas identified by the government. In 2004, Samarenos together with church people and the provincial governments of Eastern, Western and Northern Samar have blocked the entry of new mining TNCs in their provinces.

The military was suspected to be the perpetrators of these incidents. In Eastern Visayas, militant activists have accused Major General Jovito Palparan, commander of the army's 8th Infantry Division based in the region, as the one responsible for the attempted murder of Fr. Caparro.

Gen. Palparan, known to militant groups as the "Butcher of Mindoro," was held responsible for the earlier spate of killings in Mindoro where he served as commanding officer of the 204th Infantry Brigade and Deputy Commander of the 2nd Infantry Division. The killings followed the successful campaign to put a 25-year moratorium on mining operations in the province. Most of those killed actively campaigned against the operation of Mindex-Crew Minerals, a Canadian transnational mining corporation.

In Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte and Aroroy, Masbate, elements from 44th IB and 51st IB of Philippine Army are serving as security forces of Toronto Ventures Inc. and Filminera Mining Corporation, respectively. The Philippine Army and the local CAFGUs were the ones responsible for the forceful displacement of indigenous people, peasants and small scale miners in these areas.

It is alarming that these incidents happen in spite of the assurance of the government that human rights will be respected and due consultation with the people will be made before the entry of mining companies to their communities will be allowed.

It is more disturbing that these assassinations come after the assurance by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Angelo Reyes to foreign mining investors that the AFP and the PNP will be mobilized to protect their investments and operations in the country during the International Conference on Mining Investment last February 3.

We strongly condemn these violent attacks and the culpability of the Arroyo government. The government, AFP and PNP are culpable because of their failure to protect the people, persecute the perpetrators and bring justice to victims

While the perpetrators of these killings and harassments desire to quell the people's strong opposition to mining liberalization, the legitimate fight to defend the people's rights and national patrimony can not be cowed. These killings further expose the anti-people mining program of the current administration and justify the correctness and legitimacy of the people's opposition.

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