By ALDWIN QUITASOL
Posted by Bulatlat
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet (256 kms north of Manila) ? Members and conveners of the Benguet Mining Alert Network (BMAAN) have recently celebrated their organization’s first anniversary by reviewing its goals and objectives and renewing their commitment to carry-on the struggle to save the province of Benguet from further destruction.
Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance (CPA) vice chairperson Xavier Akien said the purpose of the gathering is for the BMAAN members to be reminded of why the organization was established. Akien explained how BMAAN was established on Aug. 7, 2008. He said community members from different parts of Benguet, sharing their experiences of the many cases of environmental destruction because of irresponsible mining and the mining applications by foreign mining companies over the province, convinced them to form the alliance.
“From the consultation and as a result of the workshops last year, it was agreed that there should be an alliance as an expression of the people of Benguet in addressing the hot issues of mining and the destruction of the environment,” Akien said.
With the theme “Mapangngeddeng, Agkaykaysa, Kabenguetan Isalbar!” (Be Decisive, Unite, Save Benguet Land!), Xavier told the participants to be decisive and to strengthen their unity for the realization of their goal of making the resources of Benguet, especially the minerals, benefit the indigenous peoples of Benguet first. Akien added that the participants should always be open-minded to the programs and objectives of the activity to enable them to be productive toward the achievement of the organization’s vision.
BMAAN spokesperson Virgilio Aniceto, an enginerer, delivered the report on the organization’s one-year work since 2008. He said that prior to the organization’s establishment, they started with organizing the people from different mining communities in Benguet. Anciceto said organizers gave educational discussions, forum and information-dissemination activities. They tackled the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and other matters related to mining applications covering lands of indigenous peoples.
Aniceto said the establishment of BMAAN led to a more active role of the people in safeguarding their lands. In the past period, he said, the people affected by the unscrupulous issuance of FPICs staged pickets at the office of concerned government agencies. They also saw the militant action of the people of Bakun who struggled for the removal of the office of the Royalco Mining Exploration in Sinipsip, Buguias. Royalco applied for mining explorations in Gambang, Bakun. The people of Bakun opposed its entry.
Aniceto added that the real role of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) was exposed with the controversial issuance of FPICs. He said the improper processes of FPICs lead to the division of communities.
Aniceto also talked about the declaration of unity, wherein there is a strong stand against the destructive method of mining by big foreign mining corporations and the opposition to other infrastructure projects like dams . He added that the mining companies’ demand for power supply for their operations leads to the construction of dams.
Aniceto said BMAAN also strongly coordinates and cooperates with foreign friends and advocates. He also acknowledged the active response from the elders and community members from different provinces, the assistance of progressive partylist groups and other people’s organization. Aniceto said BMAAN helped in the hosting of solidarity activities like the Cordillera Day that was held in Gambang, Bakun through the Bakun Aywanan and the observance of the Unsafe Mining Week coinciding with the government’s Mining Safety Week.
CPA deputy secretary-general Santos Mero discussed the Benguet and Cordillera situation. He showed that more than half of the Cordillera land is under the threat of development aggression.
Participants from Mankayan, Itogon and Bakun presented their position papers against the further destruction of their areas brought about by the long years of irresponsible corporate mining. They called for a stop to the issuance of large-scale mining applications and permits. (Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat)