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Kalinga indigenous peasants affirm opposition to entry of mines

TABUK, Kalinga — “We have all the valid reasons to oppose the entry of mining companies. Once they intrude into our territories, we will lose everything. Our productive farmlands, our rich forests, and our rivers will disappear.”

These were the very words of Ama Baguingan, an peasant elder from Balbalan town of this province when he participated in the Provincial Mining Conference in Tabuk from October 22 to 23.

Themed “Defend Kalinga Homeland Against Destructive Corporate Mining,” around 300 delegates from all over Kalinga, mostly peasants, professionals, church people and some local government units gathered to discuss the disadvantages and impacts that corporate mining operations would bring to the people of Kalinga.

Organized by the Timpuyog ti Mannalon iti Kalinga (TMK) or Peasant Association in of Kalina, the activity aimed to bring the issue to the broadest public and come up with resolutions that will be carried out by the participants themselves. The conference was very timely for the peasants in Kalinga since October has become a tradition for peasants all over the country to launch mass actions to air their grievances and issues affecting them.

To provide the participants a better understanding on the mining issue itself, resource speakers from the Alyansa Dagiti Pesante Iti Taeng Kordilyera (APIT TAKO) or Peasant Alliance in the Cordillera Homeland, gave inputs on the international, national and regional mining situations. These discussions posed striking question to the peasant participants, such as the impoverishment of host countries or communities of mining operations and the “development” that corporate mines will bring to these countries or communities.

As of 2002, large mining in the Philippines employed only 115,000 persons, with small-scale mining employing 300,000 persons. Meanwhile, agriculture and fisheries employed 11,006,000 persons for the same year.

Some of the peasant participants who have gone to the mining-ravaged towns of Itogon and Mankayan towns in Benguet province as part of their farmers’ exchange program witnessed the environmental and social devastation caused by the operations of Benguet Corporation and Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company, respectively.

Remarking on these, Ama Baguingan said “that this will be the beginning of our stand to oppose large-scale mining in our province. Saan tayo koma nga agduadua iti takder tayo gapu ta nu ipalubos tayo ti panagserrek ti minas ditoy ili tayo, adu ti biag a maibuwis ken mapukaw amin a paggapuan ti pangkabiagan tayo.(We should be firm in our position, otherwise, our communities and lives will be sacrificed and all our sources of livelihood will vanish if we allow the entry of large mines).
Another delegate, Mario Baggas in his ullalim (Kalinga ballad) expressed optimistic that they will be successful in opposing these multi-national corporations if they will all be united in fighting this problem because even if they don’t, they will die anyway.

Norma Buslig, a teacher and a staunch supporter of the peasant struggle in the province, hoped that the activity will forge stronger ties among the people of Kalinga for their defense of land and life.

“Inaction to the entry of mines and other destructive projects in our homeland will only cause us hardship, so let us inspire more of our provincemates to join us in our fight. Long live Kalinga!”, she said.

To the peasant delegates, the two day conference was more than successful. Much has been learned and shared as they marched back to their communities, manifested in the declaration they signed at the close of the activity. # APIT TAKO


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