“Globalization has further pushed the mining industry towards a complete sell-out of our national patrimony to foreign corporations.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Indigenous peoples and activists from mining-affected communities in the Cordillera region, Mindanao, Central and Northern Luzon will be among the thousands who will protest in Manila against the leaders’ summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) on Nov. 19.
Condemning neoliberal globalization as the driving force that opened up the Philippine mining sector to foreign companies, various groups say Apec’s further liberalization will only aggravate the destruction of the environment, displacement of communities, militarization, and violation of human rights, specially of indigenous peoples, whose ancestral territories sit on mineral-rich areas.
The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) said mining companies in the region “constantly violate the collective rights of the indigenous peoples, especially on the Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC).”
“Aside from these violations, the mining industry in the Cordillera speaks of plunder and environmental destruction,” said Santi Mero, CPA deputy secretary general, in a statement.
Mero cited environmental disasters such as the tailings dam spill of the Philex Mining Corporation in 2012; and the massive ground sinking in Colalo in 1999 and Poblacion, Mankayan in 2009 caused by the underground mining by Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company.
The most recent disaster was the sinkhole in Virac village, Itogon, Benguet, which swallowed six houses and displaced 166 families. CPA attributes the disaster to “a century of mining operations by Benguet Corporation.”
The CPA, along with indigenous groups nationwide, has called for the revocation of the Mining Act of 1995, which heavily favors foreign companies, and which implemented mining liberalization in the country. The Mining Act was passed just a year before the first Apec leaders’ summit was held in the Philippines in 1996.
“Globalization has further pushed the mining industry towards a complete sell-out of our national patrimony to foreign corporations. The Philippine government has been subservient to the dictates of foreign mining capitalists such as Canada, US, and Australia to liberalize its mining industry.
Mero said the Mining Act and similar laws caused economic dislocation, displacement of communities, environmental destruction, health hazards and violations of indigenous peoples’ collective rights.
Mero cites 2013 data from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, which said that 41 percent of the 1.8 million hectares of land in the Cordillera, or 774,000 hectares, is covered by application for mining by foreign companies. Many of the mining companies come from Australia, Canada, and the United States.
Some 32,000 hectares – all in ancestral territories – are already covered by permits for exploration, and Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSAs).
In Mindanao, the Lumad face a similar situation, with 131,000 hectares of the 943,000 has. of mining tenements located in their ancestral territories.
“The neoliberal policy Mining Act of 1995 dug up not only mineral wealth in Mindanao, but the graves of Lumád people, as well,” the Manilakbayan ng Mindanao said in a statement.
The statement cited data from the Ibon Foundation which said 97 percent of mineral production are brought out of the country, “which explains why despite the billions amassed from the mining industry in the Philippines, Lumád communities remain alien to basic social services such as education and health.”
“The present set-up of the mining industry only benefits imperialist countries at the expense of indigenous peoples and destruction of the environment,” Mero said.
“CPA strongly supports the peoples’ demand to nationally industrialize the mining industry as a step forward in developing other important national industries that truly serve the Filipino people,” he said.