The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) strongly denounces the formation of the National Task Force Mining Challenge (NTFMC) by Department of Enviroment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu, and his move to transform this into a new bureau under the DENR to enforce environmental laws with the assistance of military and police personnel, National Bureau of Investigation, and government prosecutors. The NTF MC, composed of the DENR, Philippine Army and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, started its crackdown on small scale mining in Baguio City by blasting five small-scale mining (SSM) operations on February 13.
The NTF MC is an additional testament of the current regime's earnestness in devising mechanisms to intensify the oppression of indigenous peoples. Instead of teaming up with environmentalists to protect our environment and communities from destruction due to large scale mining and extractive operations, it is mobilizing State security forces, through the line agency, to wreak havoc in communities of small scale mining operations. This will result in the loss of livelihood of more than 100,000 small-scale miners and their families in the region.
Targeting the SSM increases the opportunities for big mining corporations to encroach on our ancestral domains, expand their destructive operations and monopolize the mining industry. This shows that the current administration is deadset on feeding the whims of businessmen with the wanton exploitation of our ancestral lands.
In essence, NTF MC is another mechanism to reinforce the US-Duterte regime's tyrannical rule and impunity, a regime that mobilizes a task force to apprehend “illegal” operations while in itself is a peddler of the same thing on a macro level. Under the guise of environmental protection and regulation of SMM operations, NTF MC will further heighten the militarization of communities and strengthens the AFP Investment Defense Force aimed at protecting corporate projects.
The small scale mining crackdown is said to prevent mining operators from financing the activities of the New Peoples Army. Added to the fact that the regime has an obscured method of identifying and defining NPAs where they mistake progressive and unarmed organizations as members of the armed revolutionaries, the NTF MC has a potential for intensifying the vilification and red tagging of civilians and activists in communities with small scale mining operations.
We reiterate anew our call to scrap the Mining Act of 1995 and other unjust laws, the precedent of oppressive mining legislations such as the National Task Force Mining Challenge (NTF MC). If the administration is serious in its purpose to protect the environment, large scale mining operations should be their main target to stop the massive plunder of our ancestral lands and resources. It should heed the people’s call to stop large-scale destructive mining and aid the Cordillera indigenous peoples’ struggle for genuine regional autonomy.
Waging war against the poor by forcing on them these unfair and deceptive laws through dictatorial measures will only fuel their rage, cementing their resolve to fight back. President Duterte's despotic governance will gain him nothing but antagony from the masses, the same individuals denied of their basic rights.
As a people subjected to Duterte’s tyranny, our only choice is to unite against injustices and defend our rights to our ancestral domain, the very land from which our lives and identity as a peoples is tied to.#
Secretary General, CPA