Unite and march
forward in the struggle against
foreign-backed, large-scale mining!
Message to the Bakun Community
Mines Unsafety Week Celebration
Gambang, Bakun, Benguet
November 15, 2008
By: Satur C. Ocampo
House Deputy Minority Leader
Bayan Muna Party List Representative
I thank you for the privilege and honor to be
invited to join the indigenous people of the Cordillera in the celebrations
of Tribal Filipino Month and the Mines Unsafety Week here in Bakun!
Bayan Muna salutes our brothers and sisters in BaKUN-Aywanan,
Benguet Mining Alert and Action Network (BMAAN) and the Cordillera
Peoples Alliance (CPA) for persevering in the struggle to defend
our lands and communities against foreign-backed, large-scale mining
in the region.
The CPA has correctly pointed out in its historical
researches that large-scale mining has been destroying our indigenous
communities and the environment since the 19th century, when the
Sociedad Minero-Metalurgica Cantabro-Filipina de Mancayan took over
one of the traditional copper mining sites and logged the forests
of northern Benguet for mine timber and smelter fuel.
In the first and second quarters of the 20th century,
large mining operations almost erased the watershed of southern
Benguet. Mining has polluted surface water bodies, underground water
and caused the abrupt halt to the development of wet-rice culture
in this area. In the last three decades, mechanized mining has blasted,
stripped and leveled entire mountains in Mankayan, Kibungan, Atok,
Tublay, Itogon, and Tuba towns. By the end of the 20th century,
large-scale mining ruined 20,000 hectares of agricultural land in
Many of the large mining companies folded up in
the 1980s and left the areas permanently damaged. But Lepanto and
Philex continue to operate.
Today, there is an avalanche of mining claims and
permit applications that cover 117,000 hectares in all 13 of the
province's municipalities and Baguio City. This represents about
44 percent of the total land area of Benguet.
More foreign miners coming to rake in profits
American, Australian, Brazilian, British, Canadian,
Chinese, Japanese, South African, Swiss and other mining firms want
to come into the region to get the minerals strewn across the lands
of the Cordillera peoples. Allow me to mention just a few now in
Reports reveal that Lepanto is now expanding from
Mankayan to Bakun, Buguias and many other towns in Benguet, Ifugao,
Mountain Province, Abra, Apayao, Ilocos Sur. Lepanto has tied up
with the Canadian company Ivanhoe Mines, the British multinational
Anglo-American, one of the four largest mining companies, and Chinese
mining investment firm Zijin.
Philex Gold is also expanding from Tuba, having
applied to mine parts of La Trinidad, Tublay, and Atok. Philex also
wants to mine Nugget Hill within the Philippine Military Academy
reservation in Baguio City!
Aside from these known foreign mining giants, 37
other corporations are now undertaking start-up physical and social
preparations for their mining projects in Benguet. Most of them
have yet to get their permits or agreements required by law for
the implementation of these projects.
But two Australian firms - Bezant Resources and
Anvil Mining - are now mining with approved government permits in
Mankayan and Itogon, respectively.
Another Australian firm, Royalco Resources, received
approval - under very questionable circumstances - for one of the
Exploration Permit (EP) applications that target ore deposits in
Mankayan, Bakun, Buguias, and Kibungan. The approved EP is for Royalco's
986-hectare mining project (EP 005 CAR 2008) mainly for gold and
copper mining in Gambang, Bakun.
Your opposition to the entry of mining because it
harms your green gold - vegetables and other food crops - motivated
Bayan Muna to file House Resolution 742, now pending in the House
Committee on National Cultural Communities. The resolution seeks
an investigation into the alleged irregularities committed by the
concerned government agencies that issued the Certificate of Compliance
and the Exploration Permit to Royalco, despite opposition to mining
Pattern of mining firms' entry into our communities
The experiences of Benguet and many provinces in
the country have taught the people about the dangers of permanent
damage caused by large-scale, foreign-backed mining to the local
people and the environment. The lessons of environmentally-disastrous
mining projects in Albay, Eastern Samar, Marinduque, Mindoro, Palawan,
Romblon, Zambales, Zamboanga del Norte and in your province have
convinced some bishops of the Catholic and Protestant Churches and
local government units (LGUs) to endorse community positions against
large mining projects. Some LGUs have outrightly rejected mining
projects such as the case of Nueva Vizcaya; and put in place mining
moratoriums such as Capiz, Mindoro Oriental and Puerto Princesa
But foreign mining firms and their local conduits
use legal shortcuts, deception, bribery and other illegal acts to
gain the free, prior, informed consent (FPIC) of affected peoples
and eventually launch large-scale mining operations. They promise
local communities access roads and road improvement, livelihood
projects and education scholarships, prioritization of locals in
the hiring of mine workers, health and other social services supplemental
to those provided by government, et cetera.
In many recent cases, mining companies identify
and approach elders and leaders, offer them good-paying jobs, contracts,
honoraria. They also offer large sums of money to landowners or
occupants. There are reports that they connive with some officers
of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, Department of Environment and
Natural Resources (DENR) and the National Commission on Indigenous
Peoples (NCIP) to facilitate the accomplishment of the long list
of legal requirements for a mining project.
Other companies employ violence, including the use
of the police and military to quell communities who oppose mining
as seen in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte, Rapu-rapu, Albay and Kasibu,
Nueva Vizcaya. Mining firms are emboldened to do these because it
is the policy of the Macapagal-Arroyo administration to develop
the mining industry at all cost.
Forge greater unity to defend our national patrimony
and way of life
The national patrimony is for the development and
benefit of our people. Our minerals should be used for national
industrialization and not given away to the profit-hungry mining
transnational corporations. Mining should be done with respect to
the right of indigenous peoples to their ancestral domain and self
The history of the Cordillera people is one of struggle
to defend your way of life. We must raise the level of unity to
ably defend our patrimony, surmount the unethical, illegal and criminal
actions that mining corporations commit in the pursuit of their
The challenge is to consolidate our efforts and
expand to all the local communities threatened by the entry of mining
projects across the Cordillera.
Your continuing struggle has inspired communities
and tribes in other areas in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao to resist
the entry of mining projects endorsed and shepherded by the Arroyo
Government officials, mining executives and the
general public need to clearly understand our stand. Only in unity
and struggle can the people effectively gain strength to pressure
local government officials, national government agencies, foreign
and local mining companies to respect our opposition to large-scale,
foreign-backed mining projects.
We hope that our small effort in Bayan Muna will
help you in your campaign to preserve your lands, your way of life,
your ancestral domain, your right to self determination as a people.
Onward with the struggle!