Groups from Northern Luzon hold protest against mining corporations

By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — Some 300 members of groups opposed to irresponsible mining, and residents from various provinces in Northern Luzon, held a rally in front of the offices of well-known mining corporations in Manila earlier this week in protest against what they said are countless rights violations these companies have been perpetuating as they implement their mining projects.

Northern Luzon is composed of the Cagayan Valley, Ilocos and Cordillera regions where famous man-made and natural wonders can be found such as the Baguio rice terraces. Majority of residents come from marginalized sectors, among them peasants, fisher folk and indigenous peoples. Many of the mining projects that are posed for implementation are in the mountainous areas where the communities of several indigenous groups such as the Agta, Ilongot and Igorot have been established for centuries.



(Photos courtesy of Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas / bulatlat.com)

Led by Amianan, Salakniban! (Defend the North), Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP) and green group Kalikasan-PNE, the activists went around the capital and staged rallies in front of the offices of the Chamber of Mines, Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corporation, Benguet Corporation, Coolabah Mining Corporation, Red Earth Mining Corporation, and Lasseter Mining Corporation.
These firms are known to hold mining applications and hold operations in the Cordilleras, Cagayan Valley, and Pampanga.

According to KAMP, 243,605,696 hectares of land are currently covered by offshore magnetite mining applications in Ilocos alone. In the meantime, a shocking 60 percent of the total land area of the Cordilleras has already been compromised by mining applications and operations.


(Photo courtesy of Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas / bulatlat.com)

Large-scale and foreign dominated mining operations in the Philippines are seriously threatening the existence of many communities, especially those of indigenous peoples,” Piya Macliing Malayao, KAMP spokesperson said.

The group recently launched the Thousand Streamer Campaign, a streamer hanging protest against destructive large-scale mining. It said the Aquino government was being hypocritical when it said that it has been conducting campaigns to protect the environment when it has actually accelerated the entry of mining transnational corporations into the country.

The campaign coordinator of Bantay Amianan George Baya, in the meantime, slammed the Chamber of Mines and the Aquino administration for pushing numerous mining projects in Northern Luzon.

“These programs are clearly for profit and not for the genuine development of the communities and the country as a whole. Too many mining activities in Northern Luzon impact negatively on the region’s ridge and reef ecosystems. If the situation worsens any further, it’s not only the people of Northern Luzon who will be affected but those living in Metro Manila and Central Luzon as well. These regions also depend on the watershed and even food products from Northern Luzon,” he said.

Bantay Amianan spokesman Rev. Fr. Rex Reyes pointed how the destructive effects of mining activities are being suffered by indigenous peoples.


(Photo courtesy of Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas / bulatlat.com)

“A century’s worth of mining operations in the Cordillera particularly in Benguet brought about the destruction of ancestral lands and the economic and political displacement of the Ibaloi and Kankanaey people of the province. Magnetite or black sand mining is now posing a large threat to the marine ecosystems of Ilocos and Cagayan Valley. This will cause erosion of the sea floor and may damage coral reefs that serve as homes for fishes and other marine creatures. This will surely affect the livelihood of local fisher folk,” he said.

The groups also called for the scrapping of the Mining Act of 1995. “The law practically surrendered the country’s patrimony by offering so many incentives, privileges and guarantees to foreign investors: it allows them 100 percent ownership, 100 percent repatriation of capital and profits, easement rights, water rights, timber rights and tax incentives. As long as this law is being enforced, there is no place for people’s rights in the mining industry,” KAMP’s Malayao said.

A draft of Aquino’s mining policy was leaked to the media in mid-February. It was met with protests from various environmental groups and anti-irresponsible mining advocacy organizations.


(Photo courtesy of Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas / bulatlat.com)

Exercise political will against ecological destruction
For its part, the Kalikasan-PNE said the Aquino administration should exercise its political will on the unabated ecological destruction and resource plunder caused by Lepanto, Philex, Colossal and other large-scale and magnetite mining operations.

“The Aquino administration should stop taking in hook, line and sinker the brand of responsible mining exercised by these operations that exacerbate poverty, dislocate livelihoods and pollute ecosystems,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.

The previous year saw the sudden surge of magnetite mining applications, despite massive opposition from communities to current operations. There are a total of 176 magnetite mining applications across the Philippines, and 158 of them are found in La Union, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte.

“We are literally selling Philippine soil dirt cheap to foreign-owned companies through magnetite mining. We saw its ill-effects during the course of an environmental investigation mission conducted with the Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines in 2010. Communities experienced worsened flooding, eroded banks and coasts, and the drastic decrease of fisheries supply in some municipalities in Cagayan,” lamented Bautista.

Meanwhile, environmental political party Kalikasan Partylist seconded growing criticism of large-scale mining operations in Northern Luzon for perpetuating what it called “the ugly standard” of large-scale mining practices.



(Photos by Marife Magbanua / bulatlat.com)

“In another environmental investigation mission conducted by Kalikasan Partylist in Mt. Abo in Porac Pampanga, we found how the impending Pisumpan Copper Mines project owned by Chinese company Shuley Mines Inc. can potentially affect the area’s biodiversity, water quality, and the culture of Aeta communities in the area,” said Leon Dulce, lead convenor of Kalikasan Partylist.

Communities along the Abra River in northern Luzon have experienced fish kills, coral bleaching in their estuaries and massive siltation in their agricultural lands because of mine tailings spilling directly into the river or through other tributaries.

“Amid clear ecological degradation, the Aquino administration considers the Runruno Gold-Molybdenum Project operated by FCF Minerals in Nueva Vizcaya as one of its priority projects. An international study tour we conducted last year revealed the abuses of nature and human rights in Nueva Vizcaya related to the mining project. We believe scientific evidence and the concrete people’s experience is sufficient basis for the regime to reverse these mining liberalization schemes founded in current mining laws. It is high time to repeal the onerous mining policy that is the Mining Act of 1995,” Dulce said. (http://bulatlat.com)

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