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September 16, 2011
Mining Law that respects indigenous peoples proposed In House, Senate

By ACE ALEGRE
Bulatlat.com

BAGUIO CITY (September 13, 2011) – Claiming to respond to lingering issues over the passage of Mining Act of 1995, an Indigenous Peoples-responsive law is reportedly being pushed in Congress.

Citing documented negative effects of mining operations on indigenous communities, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Brawner Baguilat, chairman of the House Committee on Cultural Communities, is pushing for a new mining law that “respects and protects the rights of indigenous peoples (IP),” especially over claims of IPs’ ancestral domains.

Last September 13, the Philippines joined the rest of the world in marking the 5th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“In IP communities, mining operations have resulted in loss of livelihood, dislocation of settlements, weakening of social systems and loss of ownership and control over land, among many other harmful effects,” said Baguilat who has been consulting with IPs in the country.

A report of the House of Representatives’ Committee on National Cultural Communities (NCC) has also listed various issues about the Phil. Mining Act of 1995.

“The Constitution recognizes the importance of indigenous communities. They are not only an indispensable component of the country’s culture, they also hold a databank of traditional knowledge that can help solve global problems such as climate change. Their existence, therefore, cannot be sacrificed under the pretext of economic development,” Baguilat said.

Protecting FPIC

“The NCC has conducted several hearings and on-site investigations on IP concerns, and one issue that is most often raised is that of the invalid or manipulated acquisition of the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of indigenous communities,” the Ifugao solon declared.

The FPIC is required before any commercial activity affecting IP’s ancestral domains can be undertaken. It is being implemented by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

Once the majority of affected indigenous peoples agree to the project/activity, a certificate of precondition is issued by the NCIP.

“As the document’s name suggests, an indigenous community’s consent to mining operations must be freely obtained, with prior and sufficient information provided to the IPs concerned,” Baguilat said. He added that “this does not seem to be the case in several complaints they investigated.”

According to Rep. Baguilat, “with quite a number of reported violations in the issuance of the FPIC, it is now up to Congress to insulate the FPIC process against the influence of mining companies.”

A new mining law “that would ensure conservation and optimal use of mineral resources and respect and protect the rights of indigenous peoples is needed,” Baguilat said. He added that “the old (law) has proven to be insufficient in terms of protecting indigenous communities, so a new law must be passed, one that will not sacrifice the rights and culture of IPs in exchange for a promise of economic gain.”

At the Senate, Baguilat is joined by Sen. Loren Legarda in seeking a second look at the 16-year old Republic Act 7942 (Philippine Mining Act of 1995), to suit the interests of affected indigenous peoples and host communities and not that of the mining companies.

The law which Legarda suspects to have been “drafted by a mining company,” needs revision to address issues of economic, social and environmental returns and safeguards.

Legarda convened a two-day Luzon-wide indigenous peoples’ assembly at the Teachers Camp Friday last week. She said here that “we need to look if economic returns especially to Indigenous Peoples are appropriate vis-à-vis the environmental effects.”

The lady senator who heads both the Senate Committee on Climate Change and Committee on Cultural Communities said also that “We need to look at the royalties derived from (mining operations)and at the cost-benefit (of these).’

Leaders and representatives from tribal groups such as Isneg, Bago, Tingguian, Kankanaey, Iwak, Ibatan, Agta, Itawes, Tuwali, Gaddang, Bugkalot, Ayangan, Tiblac and Dumagats attended the assembly.

Tribal and indigenous peoples have been complaining of economic and cultural dislocation coupled with minimal trickle-down-effect of mining operations all over the country.

Despite the passage of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 restoring the rights of IPs over their ancestral domains and recognizing the need to preserve the cultural integrity of indigenous cultural communities, significant improvement in the communities’ socio-economic and cultural well-being is still wanting, Legarda said.

“Much is desired to ensure improved access to basic health services and education, sustainable development of ancestral lands and resources, economic empowerment, and development of traditional knowledge, skills and practices,” the lady senator concluded.

After the meetings in Luzon, IPs of Mindanao will meet on September 16-17 and IPs from Visayas on September 23-24.

An indigenous cultural summit will be held in Manila on October 13-14, in celebration of Indigenous Peoples Month. (http://bulatlat.com)

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