The new secretary-general of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), the first indigenous person to be elected to the position, vows to support the campaigns of indigenous peoples nationwide against large-scale mining.
BY ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VII, No. 45, December 16-22, 2007
BAGUIO CITY (246 kms north of Manila) – The new secretary-general of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), the first indigenous person to be elected to the position, vows to support the campaigns of indigenous peoples nationwide against large-scale mining.
An Anglican priest who hails from Sagada, Mountain Province, Rt. Rev. Rex Reyes Sr. is also the first Igorot from the Cordillera region to occupy the said NCCP office. His four-year term will start in January 2008.
Reyes considers his solidarity move as another contribution to the United Nations (UN)-declared Second Decade of Indigenous Peoples (2005-2015), which is now on its second year.
Reiterating NCCP’s support for the indigenous peoples’ struggle against large-scale mining, Reyes said that a mining policy should be oriented towards the welfare of IP’s and the Filipino people as a whole.
“It should consider the preservation of the environment as long practiced by indigenous peoples and not oriented towards foreign investments,” Reyes said in an interview. “The government must learn from the IPs whose practices of land utilization and stewardship since time immemorial have proven to be sustainable and environment-friendly.”.
Pro-foreign mining act
Reyes explained that the Mining Act of 1995, or Republic Act No. 7942, favors foreign or multinational corporations (MNCs) with such benefits as holiday taxes and repatriation of income to their mother countries. Aside from these benefits, mining MNCs are allowed to mine vast tracts of mineral land under the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) scheme, added Reyes.
The Mining Act was enacted during the administration of former President Fidel V. Ramos, as his commitment for globalization.
Meanwhile, the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) said that 68 percent of the region’s total 1.8-million hectare land area is now covered by applications for mining exploration and operations, mostly by local subsidiaries of foreign mining corporations.
Reyes said the NCCP adopted resolutions supporting the IP campaigns against large-scale mining and institutionalizing NCCP’s coordination and consultations with IP through its regional partners.
The national council will strengthen its desk People’s Action for Cultural Ties (PACT) to solidify its partnership with IPs, Reyes added.
Human rights advocacy
NCCP has been active in lobby work at the international level, particularly in exposing human rights violations in the country. It actively worked with the World Council of Churches (WCC) in lobbying at the UN, which helped the international community in grasping the worsening human rights situation in the country.
Reyes added that human rights advocacy both at the international and local levels would be sustained by the NCCP through his leadership.
NCCP has been active in seeking justice for murdered church activist Jose “Pepe” Manegdeg, who was the Ilocos and Cordillera regional coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP).
Reyes said that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s regime has the worst human rights records so far, with more than 800 cases of extrajudicial killings having been documented since she took power in 2001.
The NCCP secretary-general position will be passed to Reyes in January 2008 by Sharon Joy Ruiz-Duremdes, the first woman who occupied that position.
Formed in 1963, NCCP is composed of 10 Protestant churches. Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat