The group vowed to defend their land, life and natural resources against what they call as capitalist plunder, exemplified in APEC policies.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – A day before the start of the Annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Manila, some 750 indigenous peoples, peasants, workers and environmental advocates in the regions of Ilocos, Cagayan Valley and Cordillera region arrived early morning today to join the nationally coordinated People’s Caravan Against Imperialist Globalization II (PCAIG-2) set to start November 19.
Spearheaded by Amianan Salakniban, it is, to date, the broadest environmental and human rights network in North Luzon participated in by peoples organizations, non-government organizations, church institutions, school organizations, professionals and environment and human rights advocates.
In marching to the capital from their cool and lush northern provinces, the group vowed to defend their land, life and natural resources against what they call as capitalist plunder, exemplified in APEC policies. An example they cited are APEC’s neoliberal policies in mining and its impact on the lives of the people in the North.
Their arrival was met in Manila by indigenous peoples and advocates from the South, for a joint protest at Mendiola. According to KATRIBU Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas, this is the first time different IP groups from all over the country marched and converged at the historic Mendiola Bridge.
Mining’s havoc in the north
Fernando (Ampi) Mangili, spokesperson of Amianan Salakniban, said their experience of mining in the north has been nothing but plunder and environmental destruction.
Among the most prominent disasters, he cited the Philex tailings spill in 2012; massive ground sinking in Colalo in 1999 and Poblacion, Mankayan in 2009 which were found to be caused by underground tunneling of Lepanto; and the most recent Virac sinkhole due to the mining operations of Benguet Corporation in Itogon, Benguet since 1903.
Amianan Salakniban said these examples should have stopped the government from pushing export-oriented mining, but no, under the Aquino government, it only increased mining coverage and number of mines.
Based on the mining tenement map of Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), there are now 343 inland and offshore large-scale mining applications in north Luzon, and 81 approved large-scale mining operations.
Some of these foreign large-scale mining companies come from APEC member countries such as the United States, Australia, China, and Canada. Canadian mining companies top the list of investors in Northern Luzon.
Melbourne based- OceanaGold mining company operates in the region with two Financial Technical Assistance Applications from the government for open-pit and underground mining.
Mangili said the people in the north now suffer the impacts of these mining operations. Residents of Didipio in Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino reported that their land, water and air have deteriorated. He said also that their human rights have been violated since their forced displacement and their water sources have been scientifically proven to be contaminated with high levels of copper.
Oceana Gold is also applying to mine in Benguet, as do some Australian mining companies such as Royalco and IndoPhil.
The US also has Phelps Dodge and Freeport McMoran mining companies operating in the north, with their applications covering Balbalan and Lubuagan in Kalinga and Tubo in Abra.
The protesters also decried both the legal and illegal onshore and offshore magnetite mining by the Chinese in Ilocos and Cagayan valley region. They said it made communities near the seas vulnerable to the effects of climate change. They noted that after tropical storms, rice fields near the coasts were flooded, but after magnetite mining, the floods have been bringing salt water into the farm soil.
Research said that the sand can more easily erode as a result of lack of magnetite, and its capacity to block tidal waves is also weakened. In the end, shorelines recede, displacing or sinking villages in the process.
Mining’s trampling of human rights
Mangili said most of the areas applied for large-scale mining are ancestral lands of indigenous peoples (IPs). He said the Amianan Salakniban network has documented cases of mining companies’ violation of the collective rights of the indigenous peoples especially in obtaining their Free Prior Informed Consent. The latter is requirement before mining companies can acquire their mining license.
Corporations and government agencies such as the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) “connive” to force through their mining operations, according to reports and proofs brought by the locals in annual conveners meeting of Amianan Salakniban.
Mangili said the government and mining companies unleash military troops on communities resisting exploration and operations. This, in turn, result in cases of harassment, vilification, red tagging, trumped-up charges, illegal arrests, detention and torture; rape and threat to security of women and children; extrajudicial killings; and enforced disappearances.
Wherever there are mining applications, there are visible military operations, member organizations of Amianan Salakniban reported. They said the military justified their acts as under counter-insurgency program called Oplan Bayanihan.
Mining liberalization seen as an attack on national patrimony
In marching from the north to the capital today, Mangili said they are also denouncing the laws being implemented by the Philippine government that, he said, favor corporate interests over that of the people.
“The Philippine Mining Act of 1995 is designed after liberal laws promoted by the APEC meetings in 1990s. It has pushed further the mining industry toward a complete sell-out of our national patrimony to foreign corporations,” said Mangili.
The indigenous leader rejected “the myth of development” these attacks on their land, rights and the country’s patrimony have brought almost three decades since the supposed cooperation under APEC. He said they suffer economic dislocation instead.
“APEC is clearly a venue for corporations to profit from our natural resources and our cheap labor,” Mangili said.
For these reasons, he said the people of the North are marching the streets of Manila this week.
“We will make the voices of the marginalized heard.” They chanted Daga, biag, Kinabaknang, Salakniban. (Defend our land, life and Natural resources). The indigenous peoples (IP) are also set to participate in the People’s Caravan Against Imperialist Globalization and APEC in Manila the following day.