By TYRONE A. VELEZ and MYRAH G. ACUZAR
DAVAO CITY — The Talaingod Manobos highlighted an Earth Day protest rally here where they slammed government agencies for allowing the entry of five mining companies into their homeland in Davao del Norte.
This as other rallies in General Santos City and Surigao City gathered indigenous peoples and environment advocates to oppose the entry of large-scale mining companies in Mindanao.
Led by the organization Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanugon, some 50 of its leaders and members picketed the offices of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) regional offices.
Salugpungan spokesperson Datu Duluman Dausay said they opposed the encroachment of mining operations as they fear it would displace their community.
He said five mining companies have applications covering their ancestral domain, namely : Kinimi Copper exploration & Mining Corp., Pacific Heights Resources, Inc., McWealth Mining Corp., Geoffrey T. Yenco and One Compostela Valley Minerals, Inc. The companies are reportedly mining for gold, silver, copper, nickel, chromium and iron.
“We will not allow our lands to be mined because these are our homes,” said Dawsay.
Dawsay added that the companies and government agencies did not seek their permission to mine in their areas.
A Salugpungan member, Lito, said mining operations would harm their livelihood as they heard of experiences of other communities being hit by mining spills and other accidents.
“This will destroy our land especially our crops. This will threaten our livelihood, our livestock and the environment,” he said.
Talaingod is highly susceptible to landslide and flooding on rainy days.
The MGB website listed the mining companies’ applications that were rejected as of January this year for their failure to meet mining standards.
But the Salugpungan still criticized the MGB for implementing government’s mining laws that have caused their displacement from the recent military operations which they believed are clearing operations to facilitate the mining incursions.
Support groups held a benefit concert for Talaingod Manobos at the People’s Park to raise awareness on mining threats to Pantaron Range, one of the remaining forests in Mindanao that lies in the boundary of Talaingod and Bukidnon.
Mining and human rights also took center stage in Earth Day rallies and events in other cities in Mindanao.
In General Santos City, a Mindanao-wide consultation on the Philippine Platform on Indigenous Peoples Rights gathered indigenous peoples together with support groups and environment advocates to discuss a pro-active approach to protecting natural resources and indigenous communities from mining.
One of the participants, Sr. Noemi Degala SMSM, executive secretary of the Sisters Association in Mindanao (Samin), mentioned the outpouring of support in solidarity with the indigenous peoples.
“I admire their persistent resistance on the exploitation and destruction of our natural resources, our environment. May their effort be supported by all who respect, believe and love God and the creation God gifted us with,” Degala said.
The activity was followed by an Earth Day Forum and Solidarity Action Against Large Scale Mining where participants joined in the traditional indigenous dance.
In Surigao City, some 8,000 joined a rally led by the environment group Caraga WATCH to oppose some 15 foreign mining companies operating there.
The group led by IFI Bishops Mervin Elimanco and Romeo Tagod and Surigao City Councilor Atty. Jose Begil sought an audience with MGB Region 13 OIC Engineer Nilo Arreza to demand attention to their concerns.
Caraga WATCH said one of the major issues is the Japanese-owned Taganito High Pressure Acid Leaching (THPAL) that opened a few months ago but was complained of the communities because of the foul smell emitting from its plant.