Philippines: Police, security push protesters from mining conference
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines is holding a three-day Mining Conference and Exhibition at the Sofitel Hotel in Pasay City. The event, attended by government officials and representatives of local and foreign mining corporations were apparently oblivious to the barrage of protesters outside the five-star hotel this morning.
“While our lands and patrimony are being bargained off by the government to these investors, and our people are being killed or violated, we are treated like mere troublemakers,” said Kakay Tolentino, secretary general of KATRIBU Partylist. The protesters were violently shoved and pushed off by police and hotel security. “It is our right to be vocal about the rape of our lands and the violations of our rights due to mining interests in our ancestral territories. This is an assertion for our legitimate demands for a mining industry that services the Filipino people.”
According the the protesters, 18 indigenous peoples have been victims of extra-judicial killings, perpetrated by military and paramilitary groups. Almost all of these slays are in the context of defense of indigenous peoples to their ancestral lands against the incursion of large-scale mining. “In conjunct with counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, mining is lethal to indigenous peoples,” Tolentino said.
Indigenous peoples and environmental activists demanded the revocation of mining policies and laws that “violate people's rights and destroy the environment.” Piya Macliing Malayao, spokeswoman of indigenous peoples' alliance, Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP) said that President Benigno Aquino III is sided firmly with mining corporations, unfettered by the environmental destruction and rights violations caused by mining operations to the Filipino people.
“Last July, Aquino has rooted himself even more firmly on the side of mining transnational corporations and against the people with Executive Order 79. This EO fast-tracks applications and buttresses the Mining Act of 1995. Mining corporations applauded the policy, enabling them to plunder our resources more smoothly and legally,” Malayao said. “This mining conference is an auction. Prime mineral lands to the highest bidder.”
Philex mining and indigenous peoples
KAMP cites the case of mine tailings leak in Philex Mines in Benguet, inhabited chiefly by Igorot peoples. “Mining operations have gone on in Benguet for many decades. It belies the corporations' claims of a prosperous, clean, and responsible mining. What we see now are impoverished people and a poisoned environment,” Malayao stated. KAMP says that the poison that flowed off in water systems from Philex mining company’s Tailings Pond 3 (TP3) poisoned plants, trees, fishes, and even livestock along its path. “We demand that this mine be closed off for good, as it endagers the people and environment while it plunders our mineral wealth.”
Meanwhile, Philex Mining Corporation SVP for Corporate Affairs Atty. Mike Toledo spoke about Marketing the Future Prospects of the Mining Industry in the mining conference. “Mining has never been sexy.” he was quoted as saying. Toledo also criticized the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for disclosing the fine asked of Philex after the series of mine spills last August. Reportedly, Toledo said that the disclosure violated their rights, and made the issue a “trial by publicity.”
The DENR has previously stated that Philex may have to pay P1 billion in penalties for damages to the environment.
“It is absurd and ironic that Philex is complaining of rights violations, while they continually violate our rights. It is an added insult that he coyly regards mining, while there is much turmoil and death that surrounds the issue of mining in the Philippines. In truth, Philex's Padcal Mines in Benguet has caused irreparable and invaluable damage to the environment and people,” Malayao commented.
An independent environmental investigative mission is being planned to document environmental destruction caused by the mine spills in Benguet.
Photo: Demonstration outside the Mining Conference
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