Calling President Aquino the “Plunderer-President,” protesters said the Mining Act and the government’s continued liberalization of mining adds more reason for his ouster.
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA — Some 300 protesters belonging to indigenous peoples and environmentalist groups today called for an end to 20 years of liberalized mining under the Mining Act of 1995, which, they said, only resulted to “environmental destruction, pollution and plunder.”
Most of the protesters were indigenous peoples and farmers whose homes and farms were affected by large-scale mining and militarization. They marched to Mendiola bridge in Manila at 10 a.m., and burned a 10-foot effigy of President Aquino, depicted as a bulldozer cum backhoe.
The Philippine Mining Act, or Republic Act 7942, was enacted by President Fidel V. Ramos on March 3, 1995, opening the country to the entry of large-scale, foreign mining companies.
“On this fateful date, the government surrendered the country’s welfare and interest following the demand of foreign investors,” said Piya Macliing Malayao, spokesperson of the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Kamp).
“Twenty years and three administrations after, the anti-people and anti-indigenous peoples law ravaged our land, plundered our resources, and violated the rights of our people,” she said.
Calling President Aquino the “Plunderer-president,” protesters said the Mining Act adds even more weight to reasons for his ouster.
The groups also called for the enactment of the People’s Mining bill, proposed as House Bill 171, which has been pending at the House of Representatives since it was refiled in 2013.
Simultaneous protests calling for an end of the Mining Act and the Aquino administration were also held in Isabela in Cagayan Valley region.
Destructive, ‘legal landgrabbing’
Kamp said that the Mining Act has violated the indigenous peoples right to self-determination, as they have become victims of “legal land-grabbing” and “extensive destruction of livelihood and homes.”
“We indigenous peoples have been mining our ancestral lands for centuries, and have kept a sustainable environment,” Malayao said. But the Mining Act gave way to full ownership of ancestral territories to big, foreign mining corporations.
“After the passing of the Mining Act of 1995, Financial and Technical Assistance Agreements were granted to Australian mining corporations Climax-Arimco, now known as OceanaGold, and Western Mining Corporation, which later changed its name to SMI-Xstrata,” Malayao said.
These lands were inhabited by Bugkalot, Igorot, Blaan, and Tiboli indigenous groups in the provinces of Nueva Vizcaya, Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato, and Davao del Sur, she said.
Several environmental investigation missions conducted in Nueva Vizcaya, where mining operations began as soon as the law was passed in 1995, showed serious pollution and destruction of the environment and water systems.
In Mindanao, communities who have been resisting the SMI-Xstrata have been subjected to militarization and a number of indigenous peoples activists have been killed by soldiers.
Kamp said the government had approved 999 mining application covering some 1 million hectares.
The government even continues to “showcase and peddle” the country’s untapped mineral resources in “mining roadshows around the world,” as it ignores the destruction made by mining companies.
Malayao lamented that “billions worth of minerals mined in the Philippines are exported” to countries such as the USA, Australia, Canada, UK, China, Japan, Korea, and Malaysia. These are “resources meant for the industrialization of our country and for the benefit of most Filipinos,” she added.
“If we lose all our national patrimony, all our resources, then our dignity and future of the next generation is also lost,” Malayao said, speaking in Mendiola.
The environmentalist group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) said the Aquino administration carried out the Mining Act, and strengthened it with Executive Order 79, “which overrode local environment codes and mining moratoriums and other national laws concerning large-scale mining.”
“That Aquino perpetuated more of the same is a betrayal of the people and is basis enough for his resignation.”
“It is only under the Aquino regime that colonial-era mining patents, which essentially grant full and perpetual rights over mineral lands to mining corporations, were revived,” said Clemente Bautista, Kalikasan PNE national coordinator.
“This goes to show Noynoy Aquino’s disregard of our constitutionally guaranteed national patrimony, and how shameless pro-corporate his Administration is,” Bautista said.
EO 79 centralized the approval of mining applications to the national government, which cancelled the moratoriums against mining by local governments. “The deceptive EO 79 only reinforced the ‘one-stop-shop’ for mining applications, thereby accelerating the process for mining operations,” Kamp said.
The Aquino administration had also prioritized House Bill 5367 in Congress which would minimally increase taxation, but had ignored the People’s Mining bill first proposed in the 15th congress.
Kalikasan belied claims of contribution to economic development by mining companies, saying that “trillions of pesos” which could have been invested for national industrialization were “squandered.”
“From 1997 to 2013, the country only received a paltry P1 in every P10 profit of the large-scale mining industry, which reaped an estimated total of P1.14 trillion in mineral exports,” said Clemente. “This is not just a case of lost revenues but of our squandered national patrimony.”
The Mining Act only requires 2 percent of income for taxes, said Kamp.
In 20 years, only three smelting plants of nickel, copper, and iron were built, and even these only provide low-level processing of ores. Industrialization from our mineral wealth is far from happening under the Mining Act of 1995.
Kamp cited data from the Philippine Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (Ph-EITI) which said that mining employs only 252,000 or 0.7 percent of the total 33 million Philippine workforce.
“The benefits of mining argued by mining corporations as compensatory for its immense social costs and environmental destruction is a lie,” said Malayao.
Human rights violations
Kalikasan said 66 anti-mining activists have been killed under the Aquino administration. Of these, 50 were indigenous peoples, including six women and six children, who were slain by the military and paramilitary groups.
“The violation of human rights of indigenous peoples worsened as a result of mining and militarization,” said Malayao.
She cited the killing of eight months-pregnant Juvy Capion, a Blaan woman and one of the leaders of those resisting the mining operations of SMI-Xstrata on October 18, 2012, by members of the 26th Infantry Battalion. Her two young sons were also killed when soldiers strafed their home.
Malayao also cited the killings of Kitari Capion, Datu Anting Freay, and 16-year-old Victor Freay, other Blaan who were killed “by suspected military forces in the SMI-Xstrata mining site between 2012 and 2013.”
Malayao said military operations, conducted by soldiers along with paramilitary men recruited among indigenous peoples, have pushed thousands of indigenous peoples repeatedly in areas targeted for mining in Mindanao, such Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Sur, Compostela Valley, and Bukidnon.
The use of paramilitary groups as “investment defense forces” under the Arroyo Executive Order 546 was also reinforced by Aquino when he revived the formation of the Martial law-era Special Civilian Active Auxiliary (Scaa) to protect mining areas in 2012.