MANILA – Environmentalist and indigenous groups protested outside the annual gathering of the Chamber of Mines in the Philippines (CoMP) at the posh Solaire Casino and Resort in Paranaque City on Sept. 15, calling it “a conference of militarists and polluters.”
The groups linked the Sept. 1 killing rampage of a paramilitary group in Diatagon village, Lianga, Surigao del Sur to mining interests in the Andap Valley complex in the province, which has one of the biggest coal reserves in the country.
The leading sponsors of the conference were large-scale mining companies such as Philex Mining, Nickel Asia, Red 5 Limited, and Sagittarius Mines Inc.
“This mining conference’s top sponsors are also the leading sponsors of paramilitary groups that have sown terror across the mine-affected communities especially in Mindanao. These sponsors also have extensive track records of pollution and plunder over the past recent years,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE).
Among the protesters were survivors of the attack by the Magahat-Bagani Force in Han-ayan, Diatagon, who killed Alcadev school director Emerito Samarca, and Lumad leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Juvello Sinzo. They were joined by indigenous peoples from the mining-affected communities in Nueva Vizcaya.
Philip Romualdez, president of Benguet Corporation, which is one of the nine coal operating contract holders in Surigao del Sur, is also president of the CoMP, the main organizer of the conference.
“These big miners are responsible, not only for the pollution they have caused, but also for the AFP and their paramilitary attack dogs who have transformed mine-affected villages into killing fields,” Bautista said. He added that local government officials who have allowed the plunder and killings had also appeared at the conference.
“We are resolute in demanding accountability and justice for the ongoing pollution, plunder and even genocide that these large-scale miners are perpetrating against the people and the environment. We demand immediate justice for our Lumad brothers and sisters and the pull-out of the butcher mining companies that militarized their communities,”said Bautista.