The Myth of Safe and Responsible
on the Occasion of Mining Safety Week
November 17, 2005
The Cordillera Peoples
Alliance finds it impossible to share with the government and the
mining companies the observance of Mining Safety Week in the face
of a growing, gaping wound the mining industry has caused indigenous
peoples’ lands, their communities and their very lives. It
is disgusting how the government and its concerned agencies project
a necessary celebration when the evils of destructive mining and
the myth of safe and responsible mining has done nothing but aggravated
the danger and losses to people in the affected communities.
It is deplorable how,
with the recent mine waste spill in the waters of Rapu-rapu, Albay
and the gold blast mine Mt. Diwata, Compostela Valley, the Gloria
Macapagal Arroyo administration finds the knack to carry on with
this sham and hypocritical celebration. Inspite of the continued
cries of protest of mining affected communities, the Arroyo government
remains steadfast in its mining revitalization agenda by fully liberalizing
the local mining industry and aggressively putting up for sale indigenous
peoples’ land and resources, the country’s mineral resources
and patrimony. As a consequence of the government’s own doing,
environmental destruction and violation of indigenous peoples’
right to self determination will become unprecedented.
From the beginning, large
scale mining was a life and death issue among the indigenous peoples
in the Cordillera. The mining history in the Cordillera region and
the current state of mining affected communities shows that mining
companies have never been responsible at all when it did not rehabilitate
and compensate these communities, leaving the people therein exposed
to all sorts of risk. It has violated their right to freely determine
their own path to development, with the use and management of their
In our historical experience
on corporate, large-scale mining, there is no safety to speak of,
only looming danger and risk at the expense of mineworkers and the
affected communities. This lack of safety also pertains to the government’s
gross disrespect of indigenous peoples collective land rights, their
ancestral domain an resources. There is no safety in mining as the
concern of mining corporations is profit and greed only. Nor is
there any promise of development, as in the case of Benguet communities
ravaged by mining as it remains among the poorest provinces. This
causeless celebration does not deceive us. We have never been safe
under corporate and destructive mining!
Now, the Arroyo regime
is hell-bent in ensuring its mining policy agenda’s implementation
even as it means more harm than good to the people and the country.
Instead of correcting the historic injustice against indigenous
peoples, the Arroyo government has fashioned its mining policies
such that these aggravate the already marginalized conditions of
the people. First, the Mining Act of 1995, next the weakening and
undermining the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and various
executive orders and pronouncements that further national oppression
of indigenous peoples. Likewise, it has used the Department of Labor
and Employment in violating workers’ rights as in the series
of terminations and retrenchment in Lepanto, Mankayan inspite of
the no-retaliatory provision of their MOA with the company management
in relation to the 4-month strike. In Philex mines, the mineworkers
were forcibly retrenched and driven out after the company used them
for its superprofit. Even their children have been deprived of their
basic right to education when the company banned them to enroll
in schools within the mine camp. And if the workers organize and
fight for their rights, mining companies respond by means of union
busting, termination, dismissal, and military and police deployment
resulting to various forms of human rights violations.
It is also repelling
that the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) allows
the flawed implementation of the FPIC. For instance, it chose to
be ignore the Buaya tribe’s petition not recognizing the Memorandum
of Agreement (MOA) sought by Anglo-American subsidiary Cordillera
Exploration Inc. with their tribe.
The safety of indigenous
peoples is on the peoples’ hands and strength. It is very
difficult to rely solely on the government. The people must further
unite and advance the struggle for the defense of their lands and
livelihood resources, security, genuine peace and progress. Momentarily,
we will continue to wield our efforts and participate in the broad,
national movement for the resignation or ouster of GMA. Besides
being illegitimate and anti-indigenous peoples, President Arroyo
is responsible and condemned of her mining policies that cost us
oppression and exploitation.
and Responsible Mining and Respect Indigenous Peoples Rights!
No to mining liberalization and plunder of the peoples’ resources!
Rehabilitate mined-out areas and compensate victims of mining disasters!
Persevere in the struggle for the genuine recognition of indigenous
peoples land and collective rights!
Oust Gloria Macapagal Arroyo!
Secretary General, Cordillera Peoples Alliance