Church Leaders, Lumads Gear for
Anti-Mining Protests in Mindanao
Supreme Court has upheld with finality the constitutionality of the Mining
Act of 1995 but the struggle against this law that allows transnational
corporations to engage in destructive mining activities continues,
especially in Mindanao.
By TYRONE VELEZ
DAVAO CITY – With the Supreme Court (SC)
deciding with finality on the constitutionality of the Mining Act of 1995,
the fight against it is now in the communities of lumad (an
indigenous group in Mindanao) and farmers in Mindanao.
Religious groups and non-government
organizations (NGOs) thus said last week as they vowed to raise opposition
against the entry of foreign mining firms in the country.
The Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao (Inpeace),
Sisters Association in Mindanao (Samin), Rural Missionaries of the
Philippines (RMP) and the Religious of the Good Shepherd (RGS) condemned
the SC ruling of Dec. 1. Last week, the high court quashed the motion for
reconsideration lodged by the legal counsel of La Bugal B’laan Tribal
Association questioning the former’s earlier ruling on the legality of the
law allowing transnational mining in the country.
Sr. Ma. Carmen Diane Cabasagan, Samin
chairperson and Inpeace convenor, condemned the decision as it was clearly
rushed to please foreign investors attending the international mining
conference of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines.
Human rights lawyer Joel Mahinay, another
convenor of Inpeace, said the SC did not consider the new information and
arguments presented by the lawyers of La Bugal.
“The Supreme Court ruling reminds us of
the long upheld principle ‘what is legal may not necessarily be moral,’”
Mahinay said.“It is now up to the people to be affected by large-scale
mining to assert their political rights over their land and livelihood.”
Sister Cabasagan said that the Mining Act
is more than a legal issue. “It has become a moral issue because it
affects the well-being of the majority especially the poor, as the few
transnational investors and their Filipino partners stand to gain billions
of dollars while wiping out whole communities and destroying the
environment,” she said.
She said it is urgent to support mass
actions of communities as the only way to reverse the SC’s legalization of
the entry of foreign mining firms led by American, Canadian, and
Australian corporate giants.
Datu Tomas Ito, chairperson of the Pasaka
Confederation of Lumad Organizations, said, Lumad groups “will muster all
their powers to resist this renewed assault on the last frontiers of
Mindanao which are our ancestral domains.”
The groups earlier led a signing of a
unity statement in a forum held last Jan. 29 in Davao City calling for the
scrapping of the Mining Act of 1995. One hundred-sixty participants from
religious orders, environmental groups, NGOs, local governments and
academe signed the statement.
The statement called for a moratorium on
large-scale mining in the country and the cancellation of Financial and
Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) given to foreign mining
corporations. The signatories also demanded that foreign corporations own
up to rehabilitating areas ravaged by their operations and to respect the
The Mining Act of 1995 was a “scheme of
the national government that spells wholesale surrender of our national
patrimony to foreign countries,” they said.
Lawyer Gus Gatmaytan of the Legal Rights
and Natural Resources Center – Kasama sa Kalikasan (LRC–KSK) criticized
the government’s economic strategy which is foreign investment-dependent
and export-oriented. Such economic policy, he said, may “bring prosperity
but not progress.” Profits will only benefit a few, he said.
Five of 23 mining showcases in Mindanao
The LRC revealed that of the 23 mining
showcases by the government, five are in Mindanao.
The Australian firm Indophil Resources is
tying up with the local Sagittarius Mines Inc. (formerly Tampakan) copper
project in South Cotabato which is considered the largest undeveloped
copper field in Southeast Asia. Estimates showed the reserve has a
potential value to earn $14 billion.
Mining firms are also eyeing the gold-rich
Compostela Valley in Southern Mindanao. Already, the Indophil-Sagittarius
Mines are applying for exploration permits in Nabunturan. Another
Australian firm is eyeing a partnership with North Davao Mining in
exploring the mountains of Masara in Maco.
In Davao City, the Solid North Company is
set on exploring limestone minerals in Bunawan, covering 5,000 hectares.
A reported 820,494 hectares of land in
Southern Mindanao are covered by 13 FTAA applications of 11 mining
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