BENGUET FOLK UNITE
AGAINST LARGE AND DESTRUCTIVE MINES; LAUNCH BENGUET MINING ALERT
AND ACTION NETWORK (BMAAN)
La Trinidad, Benguet?Some
230 representatives from the different municipalities of Benguet
province gathered on August 7 in a conference to discuss community
issues and concerns on large and destructive mining and share experiences
and lessons from successful struggles, which resulted to the formation
of the Benguet Mining Alert and Action Network or BMAAN. The conference
resulted from an urgent need for collective action for the people
of Benguet to respond to the mining issues of the province, being
primarily affected by these. It is also timely, as an expression
of celebrating the International Indigenous Peoples Day which falls
on August 9.
The was organized by the Cordillera
Peoples Alliance, Itogon-Inter Barangay Alliance (IIB-A) and the
Danggayan dagiti Maidadanes nga Umili ti Mankayan (DAMAYAN).
As collectively decided by its members,
the BMAAN will serve as a venue for "sharing knowledge and
skills for monitoring and documentation; planning and coordinating
common activities and learning from our shared experiences and using
the lessons to plan and conduct further actions.
Mining Liberalization in the Cordillera
CPA Deputy Secretary General Santos
Mero discussed the Cordillera mining situation while focusing on
current mining applications, exploration and operations in Benguet
after sharing the history of large mining in the province.
Mero explained that 66% of the region's
total land area is covered by various mining applications on top
of the existing large mining operations, such as Lepanto Consolidated
in Mankayan and Philex Mines in Itogon. Mero added that five of
the 23 priority mining projects of the GMA administration is located
in the Cordillera, namely: Teresa Gold Project, Far Southeast Project
and Victoria Project all by Lepanto in Mankayan; Project 3000 of
Itogon Suyoc Mines, Pacdal Copper Expansion Project by Philex Mines,
and the Batong Buhay Project by the Philippine Mining Development
Corporation. Except for the Pacdal Expansion Project and Far Southeast,
the other projects are already in operation. Except for Batong Buhay,
the rest are located in Benguet.
Mero noted in his discussion the presence
and operations of transnational mining corporations in Benguet such
as UK-based Anglo-American (with Philex Mines, Lepanto, Cordillera
Exploration, and Northern Luzon Exploration Company); Australia-based
Oxiana/Royalco whose FPIC acquisition in Bakun is under question;
Anvil Mining Company (Australian), which now owns the Itogon Suyoc
Mines in Sangilo, Itogon; Ivanhoe Mines from Canada which has a
12% share from Lepanto; Bezant Resources (UK) with an ongoing exploration
at Guinaoang and Bulalacao in Mankayan. Bezant also owns 60% of
Crescent Mining also in Mankayan; Metals Exploration PLC or MTL
Philippines (UK) with applications in Atok, Tublay, and Bokod, and
Columbus/Magellan Metals, also with applications in Bokod.
Foreign mining companies in other provinces
include Terra Nova Exploration/Wolfland (Canadian), which has exploration
activities in Tabuk, Kalinga. The US-based Phelps Dodge has partnered
locally with Makilala Mining; Olympus mining company (Canada), which
violated the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent of the Binongan communities
in Baay Licuan, Abra; Golden Valley Exploration (Australia) also
in Abra and Oceana Gold/Climax Arimco (Australia) which has partnered
with Copper Fields for operations in Apayao.
Municipal representatives shared updates
on ground developments, such as in Brgy. Gambang in Bakun on their
opposition to Royalco's mining interests and question to its FPIC
acquisition. Representatives of Mankayan and Itogon shared the lessons
and gains from their successful struggles against Lepanto Mining,
Benguet Corporation and Philex Mines.
In another important discussion, CPA
Secretary General Windel Bolinget discussed the FPIC and the UN
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as an added
instrument for the assertion of the FPIC.
"The FPIC is not merely a process
but a basic inherent right of indigenous peoples that entails genuine
participation and decision making of the IPs?that is, right to accept
or deny their consent to any project in their territories",
Bolinget stressed. He added that "Free, Prior, and Informed
translates to nawaya, kasakbayan/umuna, naipakaammo a pammalubos.
The conference ended with greater commitment
for coordination, communication and concerted action towards strengthening
the new formation. # AT Bengwayan