Letter to the Editor
14 October 2011
The Philippines has historically endured gross environmental destruction caused by mining plunder: from the recorded 1982 Maricalum mining disaster in Negros Occidental, 1996 Marcopper mine-tailings dam collapse in Marinduque, 2005 Lafayette toxic spill in Albay, to the latest 2007 TVI Pacific mine-tailings spill in Zamboanga del Norte. Likewise, the Filipino people have an equally rich history of resistance to violations of their democratic rights to land, life, livelihood, and environment. We in the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment have for over a decade witnessed the contradictions between people’s needs and corporate greed.
The mining corporations and the Aquino regime are eager to reach their $17.35 Billion worth of mining investments by 2016 at the expense of community needs and ecological health. Because of this, it is no surprise that the mining projects continue to be met with people’s resistance. Several tribal groups are holding a barricade against Australian mining in Pao Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya since 2007. The Subanen people’s human barricade in October 2010 protested against the mining exploration of Mt. Pantukis in Zamboanga, an important watershed area.
But time and again, movements pursuing non-violent and legal struggles have been met with a deaf ear and a ‘meat head’ approach to resolving conflicts. This year only 5 enviornmental activists were killed because of their anti-mining advocacy. President Noynoy Aquino, instead of scrapping the anti-people and anti-environment Mining Act of 1995 continued this policy and even worsened its effects by condoning the practice of deploying the military and private militias to protect foreign large-scale mining. This partnership between the military and the mining corporations who also employ their own paramilitary units is effective under the so-called Investment Defense Force of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Pushed to the wall, communities on their own have taken armed resistance to mining plunder. In the past, Blaan tribes declared tribal war against Western Mining Corporation in South Cotabato. Also the action of the Mamanwa tribe torching mining equipment owned by Taganito Mining Corp. in Claver in July 2010. Not heeding the community’s warning, there is no coincidence that lightning struck twice in Claver. The recent New People’s Army guerrilla resistance to three (3) mining operations occurred in the same municipality, against TMC, the same destructive mining company, and its two other mining partners; the Nickel Asia and Sumitomo of Japan.
Public reaction to the attacks against the Surigao mines is one gauge of the legitimacy of its basis. Excluding the ‘wolf!’ cries of revolutionary tax extortion from the AFP and the Philippines Chamber of Mines, and the misplaced condemnations of some pseudo-progressive groups, public appreciation and acclamation of the opposition to large-scale mining was apparent, that even the neoliberal economist Solita Monsod couldn’t deny.
Above the din of state propaganda and corporate greenwashing claiming various environmental and mines safety awards, the situation was clear and simple: under the ‘watchful eyes’ of the government, mining operations in Surigao negatively impacted the surrounding communities, and the environment.
People’s resistances in different forms are therefore justified. This is the case in many areas across the Philippines where mining plunder is logically met with coinciding legal mass movements and armed resistance, such as in Cagayan Valley where the Chinese-owned magnetite mining operations and Philex Mining projects in Negros Occidental opposed by local communities were also torched by the NPA. The community and the guerrillas acted upon a legitimate concern based on their respective ambits.
The people’s struggles employ various methods and different venues, based on what is justifiably warranted and not based on the biases of us who are outside looking in. Malacanang commented that the NPA and the mining-affected communities can raise their issue in a peaceful manner; in fact a temporary environmental protection order was placed on these corporations through the local people’s initiative. But still, the operations went on business as usual. The government was well aware of this even before the attacks but did nothing to halt the mining plunder.
We shouldn’t wonder if the Aquino regime, the AFP, and the mining industry will soon be hailed by the NPA as its top recruiters.
CLEMENTE BAUTISTA JR.
Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE)
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