CPA Supports Baguilat Call for Mining Moratorium and Respect of Indigenous Peoples’ FPIC
The Cordillera Peoples Alliance welcomes and supports Ifugao Representative and Chair of the House Committee on National Cultural Communities Teodoro Baguilat Jr.’s call for a moratorium on pre-mining and mining activities to stop human rights abuses of indigenous peoples in their ancestral lands and territories. Baguilat’s call supports our longstanding demand to correct the historic injustice suffered by indigenous peoples from oppressive land laws, government policies, projects of local and foreign capitalists and State terrorism.
This call is also urgent for the repeal and scrapping of the Mining Act of 1995 and other oppressive and environmentally destructive laws given the environmental and climate crisis where extractive industries are a key factor. In our historic experience, large capitalist mines brought destruction and oppression to indigenous peoples than development and progress.
Thus, CPA reiterates its call for the scrapping of the Mining Act of 1995 and the National Minerals Policy. The new administration of Pres. Aquino must decisively revoke mining projects without the genuine Free, Prior and Informed Consent of affected communities. The flawed implementation of the FPIC process as mandated by the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act has violated indigenous peoples’ collective rights, and our communities in Baay Licuan, Abra; Bakun, Benguet; and Conner, Apayao and elsewhere can attest to this, to name a few. We urge Congress to pursue inquiries in areas where there are reported cases of FPIC violations and community opposition to destructive projects like large mines and dams. Inquiries must include the investigation of the militarization of indigenous communities to suppress community resistance to mining plunder, resulting in various rights violations.
We also call for the investigation of the safety and appropriateness of mine tailings dams in the Philippines, to determine if these can withstand climate change, extreme weather changes and strong typhoons. We remember Tailings Dam 5A of Lepanto in Mankayan, Benguet, which was built right between the communities of Colalo and Cabiten, where people live and thousands in downstream communities along the Abra River. On July 26, 1999, a large portion of Colalo above the quarry site of Tailings Dam 5A sunk and eroded, seriously damaging the elementary school, homes, several farms and orchards, affecting 10 hectares of land and causing the death of one resident whose body was never found. The sinking went down by some 550 meters. To date, residents continue to observe cracks and continue to fear for their lives whenever strong rains and typhoons come just like now under supertyphoon Juan. The Abra River is proof to the environmental crimes of Lepanto.
We also remember the Marcopper mining disaster in Marinduque in 1996 with the completion of the Maguila-guila tailings dam inspite of sustained protest from the communities affected. After the dam was completed, residents noticed mine waste flowing into the river and death of aquatic food sources. Strong rains caused intense flooding and the eventual collapse of the dam. The Boac river was declared dead, 20 villages evacuated and 9 people were found by authorities to have very high levels of zinc in their blood. Elsewhere abroad, mine tailings dams continue to collapse, resulting in massive environmental, agricultural and social damages, such as in Hungary, of recent.
With these experiences and the concrete threats of climate change especially to indigenous peoples and our ancestral lands and resources, we support Cong. Baguilat’s call to Pres. Noynoy Aquino for a nationwide moratorium of mining applications and activities to protect indigenous peoples’ interest. We challenge the President to uphold his statement saying that indigenous peoples’ prior right to their ancestral lands must be upheld, and that it is up to indigenous communities to decide if they will accept or reject any project entering their community. Aquino must also make accountable all corporations that have violated indigenous peoples’ rights including the NCIP officials involved in the issuances of fraudulent FPIC certifications to mining projects must be investigated and punished. If the people are truly Pnoy’s boss (“kayo ang boss ko” in his inaugural speech), there should not be a problem implementing these demands which were included in the Indigenous Peoples Agenda submitted to him during the International Day of the Worlds Indigenous Peoples on August 9. He must also ensure the indemnification and rehabilitation of indigenous communities plundered and exploited by extractive industries. To prove its sincerity in the global effort to address the climate crisis, one concrete step is to disallow and stop extractive industries in the country. Efforts for a Peoples Mining Bill and a comprehensive study on the twin dangers of extractive industries and climate change must also be pursued. We the Aquino government to finally and seriously respect our rights as indigenous peoples to our ancestral lands, resources and self determination as enshrined in international instruments like the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
Lastly, we challenge other lawmakers in the Cordillera and national government to decisively put forward a stand on the issues of large mining and indigenous peoples’ rights, and ensure the delivery of basic social services to the indigenous communities. CPA hopes that other local government officials and lawmakers will follow suit and support Cong. Baguilat’s example of setting concrete measures to help the historically marginalized IPs of the Cordillera and the rest of the country. #
Abie B. Anongos