At least 100 elders from the Mountain Province gathered for a two-day congress and strengthened their opposition to corporate mining and military deployment in communities where anti-mining sentiments are strong.
BY ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
BAGUIO CITY—At least 100 elders from the Mountain Province (394 kms from Manila) gathered for a two-day congress and strengthened their opposition to corporate mining and deployment of soldiers to communities where anti-mining sentiments are strong.
The elders from the dap-ay (indigenous socio-political institution) and the bodong (peace pact) practicing communities gathered Nov. 20-22 at Barangay Dallic, Bontoc, Mountain Province for the 1st Provincial Elders Congress. The dap-ay and the bodong are institutions where the elders’ role in community leadership is practiced.
The gathering led to the founding of the elders’ organization called the Movement for the Advancement of Inter-Tribal Unity or Development (MAITUD) which came up with a signed unity declaration on their position on issues affecting their systems and ancestral domain.
“The administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo aggravated our situation when it opened our lands for large-scale mining through its National Minerals Policy, which implemented the pro-corporate Mining Act of 1995,” stated their declaration written in Ilocano.
In an earlier Northern Dispatch report, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in the Cordillera revealed that from the more than 1.8 million hectares land area of the region, almost 1.7 million hectares are applied for mining by corporate interest.
The applications range from foreign financial technical assistance to mineral production sharing agreement and have different stages from applications to explorations. Most of the applicants are foreign corporations.
The elders’ statement claimed that the administration’s policy allows big corporate mining corporations to rape their ancestral domain which they have nurtured since time immemorial.
“With these applications are widespread military deployment to ensure the implementation of the mining projects and to silence the opposition of the affected communities,” said the MAITUD statement.
They said that the mining of their lands is a violation of their collective right. The deployment of the military, on the other hand, leads to various human rights violations.
The elders reported that their right to the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) mandated by the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997 were run over by the mining applications. They cited the cases of Kalinga and Apayao where the FPIC of the communities were not sought before the exploration by a foreign mining company.
The elders included in their program different means to broaden their ranks and linkages for their campaign to defend their life and dignity, and their land and resources.
The elders, through the bodong, played a great role in unifying the Kalingas and Bontok struggle against the World Bank-funded Chico River dams and the Tinggians struggle against the logging by the Cellophil Resources Company over their ancestral domain. (Bulatlat.com)