Philippines' indigenous groups protest mining exploration on ancestral lands
Indigenous peoples alliance, Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP) expresses alarm over Royalco Mining Company’s mining exploration in ancestral lands in Bakun, Benguet. “It portrays how mining TNCs, conspiring with government agencies, violate indigenous people’s rights to self-determination,” KAMP spokesperson, Piya Macliing Malayao said.
Bakun is ancestral lands of Kankana-ey and Ibaloi Igorot people.
The group said it exposes the deception of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Memorandum Order 2011-01 that ostensibly orders a ‘mining moratorium.’
“Aquino imposed a so-called moratorium in mining and logging, but on the grounds, these destructive industries operate and even expand,” Malayao claimed. “It confirms that there is nothing but sweet-talk in these pronouncements.”
Malacañang spokesperson Edwin Lacierda announced early this year that a mining moratorium will be in place, in response to environmental protection and sustainable development. But KAMP believes that these are hollow promises. “What is happening now in Bakun renders this pronouncement useless. Even with a congressional inquiry siding with the Bakun people, not to mention strong local resistance, interests of mining TNCs are prioritized,” Malayao said.
In contrast, KAMP claims, the ‘moratorium’ has only enlivened mining plunder. “Because the DENR responded to the moratorium by reviewing mining permits and cull out ‘unproductive’ mining claims, formerly dormant mines halted by community opposition are coerced to be ‘productive.’ This ‘moratorium’ actually activated mining, pushing investors to resume or commence mining activities.”
Community resistance against large-scale mining operations in Bakun is fierce, says Malayao. “As early as April 2009, a Bakun Declaration was forged, uniting the community against imperialist mining plunder. Obviously, there is clear and strong opposition from community members. Despite this, a mining exploration permit was issued.” Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) of indigenous communities is required before projects enter indigenous peoples’ territories.
A ‘falsified’ FPIC was extracted from the community, the group says.
Last February, a congressional inquiry was held in Bakun, to investigate on the shady FPIC process made in the area. An FPIC is required for all development projects in ancestral domains.
However, Royalco Philippines Incorporated insists on carrying on mining operations in Bakun, stirring residents anew. Local organization Bakun Aywanan reports that drills are being forced inside the community.
“This is blaring development aggression,” Malayao claimed.
Bakun folk will resiliently oppose such moves, says KAMP. “In the face of blatant abuses, we are more determined to defend our rights to land and life,” Malayao said.
PHOTO: Activists and indigenous leaders present the "Bakun declaration against mining plunder" in April 2009