‘We are endlessly building and rebuilding our lives amidst the turmoil created by military presence and ‘development’ activities in our lands.’
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – As the Aquino administration implements public-private partnership (PPP) projects in various parts of the Philippines, more and more people are being displaced from their communities.
This is one of the major findings in the recently-concluded National Conference on Internally Displaced Persons held April 23 to 24 in Quezon City and organized by the End Impunity Alliance and the Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines.
More than 100 internal refugees from Caraga, Southern Mindanao, Northern Mindanao, Socsksargen, Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao and Negros attended the conference.
“Here in urban centers, there is forced eviction of urban poor dwellers in favour of ‘development’ as there is forced evacuation in the countryside, all in the name of ‘development’. In urban centers it is for commercial purposes for Aquino’s public-private partnership (PPP); in rural areas it is for agri-business plantations and large-scale mining operations,” Genasque Enriquez, secretary general of Kahugpong sa Lumadnong Organisasyon (Kasalo), a CARAGA-wide organization of Lumad, said.
“Yearly, we are forced to leave our communities; our farms though they are already ripe for harvesting; our children from coming to school, to seek shelter in strange places, sleep in cold cement floors of gyms, basketball courts or school halls, bear the sweltering heat of makeshift tents, and rely on donated food and medicine. When we go back to our communities all our efforts to build and develop our communities and to secure our children’s future are destroyed.
“Our harvested crops are scattered on the street; our houses, and the schools we built, are ransacked and vandalized. We are endlessly building and rebuilding our lives amidst the turmoil created by military presence and activities in our lands. Worst, we are treated like dirt by some government and military officials who are sworn to protect our rights as human beings,” Enriquez said.
Displacing people in favor of mining companies
Military officials have admitted time and again that they want to clear the way for mining companies, Enriquez said. The Andap Valley Complex in their region is an example, he said, it being rich in minerals. The complex covers the towns of Tandag, Tago, Cagwait, San Agustin, Marihatag and Lianga in Surigao del Sur.
As of January this year, the Aquino government has approved 33 mineral sharing production agreements (MPSAs) covering more than 60,000 hectares and 128 exploration permits covering more than 500,000 hectares and several coal operating contracts.
Meanwhile, in Compostela Valley, Maria Lou Lambo, a community teacher at sitio Lubog, Tibagon village in Pantukan, disclosed that heavy military operations began when foreign mining companies intensified their operations in the area.
The Save Pantukan Alliance listed some huge foreign mining firms operating in Pantukan such as the Nationwide Development Corporation with 1,656 hectares; Napnapan Miner Resource and Corporation with 4,912 hectares; Blue Mountain Exploration Mining with 1,600 hectares; Lion Share Mining Company with 4,000 hectares; Southern Horizon with around 2,000 hectares; and Russel Mines and Minerals, Inc. with 1,656 hectares.
Lambo said soldiers from the 71st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army arrived at their village on March 8. Four days later, the soldiers had talked to Lambo and accused her of being a supporter of the New People’s Army (NPA).
Lambo said the soldiers also insisted that the school where she teaches had been built by the NPA guerrillas. For her safety and that of her family, Lambo and her family packed their bags stayed in Davao City for weeks.
Forcible evacuation mounts
Karapatan has documented more than 6,500 victims of combined forced eviction and forced evacuation from the time President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino assumed the Presidency until the first quarter of 2012.
Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Karapatan chairwoman, said the number does not include yet those who were harassed and intimidated; those who were wounded and hit by bomb shrapnel or by the military’s indiscriminate firing, or the number of people, including minor, who were forced by soldiers to act as guide in the forest areas, or shield by the military during their operations and the number of schools and other public places which the military used for their purpose.”
“People are forced out of their communities to give way to so-called development projects like large-scale mining, coal-fired thermal plants and big agricultural plantations,” a portion of the conference’s synthesis read. “These same programs and projects are almost always accompanied by military operations, thus causing grave human rights violations and displacement of thousands of farmers and indigenous peoples. Those who oppose these projects are vilified and some were murdered.”
The wife of Jimmy Liguyon, Sharon, was one of those who attended the conference. She said Jimmy was killed because of his opposition to mining.
Since her husband was killed, Sharon and her children have not yet returned to their home in San Fernando, Bukidnon. She explained that the suspect in the murder of her husband, a local paramilitary group leader, had threatened her.
Victims of forced evacuation also called on the Aquino administration to stop military operations, bombings and airstrikes in the countryside and to immediately pull out military troops, especially from peasant communities and ancestral lands of Moro and indigenous peoples.