Binongan Elders Seal
Unity Pact for Defense of Land and Life in Cordillera Day 2008
Fires were lit in the makeshift kitchen in small
patch of cleared ricefield, overlooking the wider payeo where
Cordillera Day 2008 is being celebrated One by one, or in two's,
with some leaning on their canes, men and women elders of the Binongan
indigenous peoples in Baay Licuan settled themselves near the fire,
to share stories, discuss and debate on matters that concern them.
Panglakayen, mananakem, papangat. Coffee is brewed to accompany
the long hours of discussion. The moon lends light, rising in full
over the mountains of Brgy. Poblacion. A little over 1 AM, as our
elders are accustomed to long hours of discussion and debate, they
bind themselves in a Unity Pact in opposition to large and destructive
mines in Baay Licuan (Katulagan Ti Panglakayen Ken Mananakem, Papangat
Ti Tribo Ti Binongan Kontra iti Hegante ken Makadadael a Panagminas).
"This event is both historical and significant, as it marks
the indispensable role of indigenous elders to defend land and life,
and uphold indigenous peoples' right to self determination",
said Cordillera Elders Alliance (CEA) Deputy Secretary General Johnny
Sawadan in a press conference with Baguio media last week.
"In our struggles against destructive projects,
such as the Chico dams in Mountain Province and Kalinga, and Cellophil
in Abra, and against militarization, our elders have been at the
forefront of these", he added. In the anti-Cellophil struggle,
several pacts were sealed through the elders, and this helped wield
further unity among the Tingguians until they triumphed against
Cellophil. One concrete example is the Bucloc-Tubo-Malibcong Unity
Pact as a result of the Interpeace-pact Partners Gathering in Bangilo
on Sept. 28, 1975.
Clad in their indigenous attire, the elders stood proud and resolute
as they presented the seven-point Unity Pact before the 3,000 delegates
of the 24th Cordillera Day celebration on April 24.
Knowing what destruction large mines can do to the
land, the people, and their future, the elders specifically articulated
to continue its struggle against Olympus Pacific Mines until it
leaves in peace the people of Baay Licuan, and prevent other large
mines from entering the Binongan ancestral domain. The Pact strongly
states that they do not recognize and respect the Mining Act of
1995, as it has legalized the plunder of resources of indigenous
communities, especially in their ancestral domain.
Other points in the pact states continuing vigilance against further
attempts to violate the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent of the
concerned communities, and any attempt to manipulate the acquisition
of this in the light that from the start, the Binongan communities
have already made clear its position against the entry, exploration/operation
of Olympus. The pact is continuing, solid proof to the earlier petitions
and resolutions that Baay Licuan communities and people's organizations
have made and submitted to the company, its conduits AMIC and Jabel,
and to concerned government agencies and institutions.
Ernesto Quinto, an elder and leader of BALITOK (Baay
Licuan Takderan Omnu a Karbengan), the host organization of Cordillera
Day 2008, stated "what we, people of Baay Licuan want, is to
use and manage our own resources, and this we can do through traditional
and small-scale mining."
Earlier in February, in a dialogue with some officials
of the municipality and the affected barangays, Misah Blando of
the Sangguniang Bayan articulated the same alternative of small-scale
mining for the people of Baay Licuan to have control and use of
their mineral resources. # AT Bengwayan/Cordillera Peoples