Lumads say Mining Act has only worsened their lot
DAVAO CITY -- Fourteen years after it was signed into law, the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 or Republic Act 7942 has failed to bring development to the indigenous communities, a Lumad leader today said.
Some 200 Lumads (indigenous peoples) today expressed their dismay over RA 7942 by staging a protest action in front of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) here and called for the scrapping of the law which they said has only worsened their living condition.
The protest came a day before the 14th anniversary of the signing of the law.
Then President Fidel Ramos considered the law as one of his centerpiece programs under his Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) that adopted trade liberalization, industry deregulation and privatization.
But Dulping Ogan, secretary-general of Kalumaran, a Mindanao-wide alliance of regional Lumad organizations, said that mining has failed to bring economic development to indigenous peoples not just in Mindanao but also in other parts of the country.
"Katorse na ka tuig ang Mining Act, katorse pud ka na tuig silot sa katawhang Lumad kay kani na balaod wala gyud nakatabang sa amoa. Kani pa ang nagadala sa militarisasyon sa kabukiran (The Mining Act is 14 years old. It has also been 14 years old that Lumads have been punished because this law has never helped us. This has even brought militarization to the uplands)" Ogan pointed out in an interview.
He added that the Lumads are the ones absorbing the adverse effects of mining particularly on their culture and economic activities in the hinterlands.
"Kung naa man natabang ang mining, kana lang man mga kalsada na kung sa diin kana unta trabaho man na sa gobyerno. Ang nahitabo karon, ginasalig na lang sa gobyerno ang mga infrastructure projects sa mga areas kung asa naa mining (If mining has been of any help, it is only through roads which are supposed to be the work of government. What happens is that the government has given the task of building roads to mining companies in areas where they operate)," he said.
The Lumad leader said mining has destroyed their ancestral domains instead of improved their economic conditions.
There are 11 priority mining projects targeted in Mindanao that are said to encroach on ancestral lands. These are in Tampakan, South Cotabato; Pujada, Davao Oriental; Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte; and other towns in Compostela Valley and Surigao del Sur.
Erwin Quiñones, campaigns paralegal of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan (LRC-KsK), said the law has created social divisions among the indigenous peoples.
"Despite the promise of economic growth, jobs and prosperity among others, the liberalized mining industry, cloaked under Philippine Mining Act of 1995 or Republic Act 7942, has worsened the already impoverished state of the indigenous and rural communities 14 years later, and aggravated further by displacements, division and conflict and human rights abuses," Quiñones said.
At the expense of the indigenous peoples, large-scale mining interests have strengthened their control over vast mineral resources, he added.
As of January 2008, mining companies had forged 294 agreements. These consisted of two Financial and Technical Assistance Agreements, 262 Mineral Production Sharing Agreements and 30 Exploration Permits covering some 600,000 hectares of highly mineralized lands, he concluded. (Keith Bacongco / Mindanews)