Jaime said the open pit mining in Canatuan mine dried up bodies of water and damaged forest vegetation. Mine tailings from the mine spill over to the creek and the river.
In all of the priority areas for mining, there are heavy military operations, according to Jaime. The Armed Forces of the Philippines and paramilitary units protect these mining corporations. For instance, in Southern Mindanao region, there is the Investment Defense Force (IDF). In Socskargen, a special military unit was also formed to safeguard mines. In Surigao del Sur, Lumads and farmers had been evacuating from their homes due to intense military operations.
“Where would the indigenous peoples go?” Jaime asked.
The group said that Aquino did not revoke the priority mining projects of the previous administration. The Arroyo administration identified 23 mining projects and 41 exploration projects.
“Aquino did not change the mining policy. He reformed it to become more aggressive in enticing mining TNCs,” Jaime said.
Jaime explained that the cancelation of 600 mining applications by the Aquino administration was intended to replace “inactive” mining TNCs with those that would want to operate.
Jaime also criticized Malacañang for interfering in the South Cotabato open-pit mining ban to pursue a so-called “win-win” solution for Xstrata and the local government.
The group also said that Aquino did not act to stop the Mt. Diwalwal mining privatization and did not reverse midnight mining deals such as FTAA in Palawan and MPSA in Camarines Sur.
Defending Ancestral Land
Jaime said that amid the attacks on their ancestral land and livelihood, the indigenous peoples are fighting against foreign large-scale mining.
Indigenous peoples’ in Cordillera, particularly the Kankanaey and Ibaloi, came together in April 2009 to oppose the entry of mining TNCs. The gathering resulted in the Bakun Declaration. In the same manner, the next month, small-scale miners and small farmers in Diwalwal united themselves and came up with the Monkayo Declaration. In October of the same year, farmers and Lumads signed up the Andap Valley Declaration in Diatagon, Surigao del Sur.
Jaime said other indigenous peoples from ALARM sites are set to follow suit.
“This is an issue of life-and-death not only for the indigenous peoples but also for the whole nation. If all of the mining projects will push through, the damage on the environment and on the people’s lives would be irreparable,” Jaime said.