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September 11, 2008

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Bayan Muna, GWP and Anakpawis Partylists support Binongan Indigenous Peoples Struggle in Baay Licuan, Abra

In behalf of the BALITOK (Baay Licuan, Takderan Omnu a Karbengan), and KASTAN-CPA Abra, the CORDILLERA PEOPLES ALLIANCE warmly welcomes the move of partylists Bayan Muna, Gabriela Women's Party and Anakpawis calling for an inquiry to the investigate the human rights violations of Canadian mining company Olympus Pacific Minerals in the Binongan indigenous communities of Baay Licuan, Abra province.

The representatives of Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and GWP authored House Resolution No. 762, "directing the Committee on National and Cultural Communities to Conduct an Inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the mining operation of Canadian mining firm Olympus Pacific Minerals Inc. and its local conduits Abra Mining Industrial Corp (AMIC) and Jabel Corporation that violate the rights of the indigenous Binongan people in Baay Licuan, Abra."

We commend Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and GWP for having sustained its support to the struggle of the Cordillera indigenous peoples, and putting their concerns at par with the rest of nation's. Again, these partylists have shown that they are genuinely for the interest of indigenous peoples.

Brief Background
Olympus and its local subsidiaries AMIC and Jabel explored and drilled in February 2007 at Mt. Capcapo in Baay Licuan, which is part of the ancestral domain of the Binongan indigenous peoples, without securing their Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). Tides of petitions and sustained community protest halted the drilling, and even pushed the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP)-CAR to call on Olympus to suspend its activities due to the protests. The provincial NCIP, in its Ocular/Site Inspection Report in August 2008 affirmed that indeed, the FPIC was not secured and that Olympus "grossly violated the right of the indigenous cultural communities/indigenous peoples in their ancestral domain".

But before this, the Baay Licuan indigenous peoples right to FPIC was again violated when a mining claim was approved in April 1998 without them knowing.

Prior to the exploration and drilling, Jabel (also Kadabra Mining Corporation) had already acquired a Mining Lease Agreement (MLA), later converted into a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) through APSAs 057 and 058 in Baay Licuan in April 1998, one of those fraudulently certified by the NCIP. Basis for the certification was that there were no applications for Certificate for Ancestral Land Claim (CALC) or Certificate for Ancestral Domain Claim (CADC), as if implying that in the absence of these, there are no indigenous peoples in Baay Licuan that must be consulted before any activity, program or project in the area.

Present Situation
The Baay Licuan communities sustained their collective decision denying consent to Olympus, even with the heavy militarization in their areas while the "FPIC process", as per NCIP Administrative Order No. 1 Series of 2006 was being carried out.

The 41st IB, 503rd IBde Recon and Composite Coys stayed based under residents' houses, while conducting harassment, intimidation and surveillance in the communities. Leaders of BALITOK, KASTAN and CPA were maliciously tagged as NPA fronts and supporters, making them open targets not only to harassment and intimidation but to extrajudicial killings. Harassment and surveillance was intense, as this was aimed at sowing fear and terror to weaken the solid, collective stand of the communities concerned. Presently, the 41st IB has detached in Brgy. Bakiro. Leaders of BALITOK are still being harassed and intimidated, such BALITOK Chair Ernesto Quinto.

To date, the Binongan communities have not given in, despite the various forms of harassment. They denied consent, thereby rejecting Olympus. Their battle, however, does not end here. The Capcapo Gold Project is one of the Priority Exploration Projects of the Arroyo regime, along with Mt. Mines Copper-Gold Project (Lubuagan, Kalinga) and the Conner Gold Project (Apayao). Thus, the Arroyo regime will not easily let it go.
Government has liberalized the mining industry and crafted the National Minerals Policy to further create conditions to accommodate imperialist plunder. The Mining Act, approved in 1995, first created such conditions that practically and totally sold out our national patrimony and sovereignty.

Capcapo was saved due to the concerted action of the Binongan and the concrete support from the local, regional, and international communities. Locally, the communities remain vigilant for other mining attempts in their ancestral domain. Support in legislation such as House Resolution 742 from Bayan Muna, Anakapwis and GWP are integral to this, and to the other struggles of indigenous peoples for their right to self determination. #

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