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Declaration on the Cordillera Regional Mining Conference

Baguio City, 4 March 2005

We stand ready to defend our land and our patrimony against imperialist mining!

We, the 245 participants in the Cordillera Regional Conference on Mining, representatives of people’s organizations in Benguet, Mountain Province, Abra, Kalinga, Apayao, and Ifugao, joined by a number of our counterparts from other regions, as well as representatives of regional, national, and international NGOs, declare:

1. We denounce the Supreme Court’s reversal of its own decision on the constitutionality of provisions in the Mining Act of 1995 regarding Financial or Technical Assistance Agreements (FTAA) between foreign mining corporations and the state: in January 2004, the Court had declared that these violated the Constitution’s provisions on the protection of the Filipino people’s patrimony; but in December 2004, the Court retracted this declaration, saying that the Filipino people needed foreign assistance to optimize the country’s mineral wealth.

The Supreme Court’s turnabout is bound to result in violations of the Filipino people’s collective rights to patrimony and in intensified national oppression of the country’s indigenous peoples. It will allow foreign corporations to appropriate our country’s mineral resources and usurp our peoples’ lands. Land will be laid waste, water and air will be contaminated with toxic pollutants, and agriculture and other livelihoods will be ruined.

We denounce the members of the Supreme Court for caving in to pressure to liberalize the mining industry as a supposed solution to the country’s financial crisis. We assert that the natural resources of the country should be used for the wellbeing of the people, not for the profit of foreign capitalists and their local partners within and outside the government.

2. We denounce the aggressive implementation of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s Executive Order 270 and Mineral Action Plan for the liberalization of the Philippine mining industry. We affirm our stand that capitalist mining will not solve the country’s financial crisis and will not result in improved human development among the people. The experience of the province of Benguet attests to this. Big capitalist corporations have violated the rights of Benguet’s mine workers and deprived thousands of Benguet’s peasants of their livelihoods. The communities living around the province’s mining areas are now suffering the long-term effects of severe environmental degradation.

The government claims that large capitalist mining brings prosperity to the areas that host it. But Benguet, which has hosted as many as 13 large mines, remains a member of Club 20 – the 20 most impoverished provinces in the country. It is the capitalists behind Philex, Lepanto, and other corporations who have mined the province that have accumulated mega-profits. And it is their partners within and outside the government that have been enriched.

Internationally, countries that have relied too heavily on foreign capitalist mining are among the poorest and most heavily indebted. This shows that there is no truth to the claim that widespread capitalist mining brings development to a country and its people.

3. We affirm our traditions of small-scale artisanal mining as systems which feature just relations and sustainable methods of production that inflict little harm on the environment. It is in these living traditions that we see how people can partake of the resources of the earth in a rational manner, to meet basic needs.

But we recognize that at present, in areas of intensive small-scale gold mining, there are those among our communities who have adopted methods and materials of production that harm human health as well as the environment, and there are those who impose exploitative terms of production and trade. We therefore need to conduct education and training in health and environmental conservation based on appropriate community practices in the management of the natural resources that support human life. We also need to establish pocket miners’ and gold panners’ associations and cooperatives that can serve as instruments for molding a rational, progressive, and just system of small-scale gold production and trade.

4. We have learned that many of the 23 areas identified as priority mining locations in the Mineral Action Plan and the President’s Executive Order 270, Revitalizing the Philippine Mining Industry, are within the Cordillera provinces. These include the areas covered by the Teresa Gold and Far Southeast Gold Projects of the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company, the Padcal Expansion Project of the Philex Mining Corporation, and the Itogon Gold Project of the Itogon-Suyoc Mines in the province of Benguet; the Batong Buhay Gold Project in the province of Kalinga; the Bucay Magnetite River Iron Sand Project, Sanvig Iron Sand and Alluvial Gold Project, and Capcapo Copper-Gold Project of the Abra Mining and Industrial Corporation in the province of Abra.

In addition to these are more than 100 applications filed by various corporations for permits to mine the Cordillera – for example, Newmont’s applications for FTAAs that will cover large portions of Apayao, Kalinga, Mountain Province, Abra, the Ilocos Sur uplands, Benguet, Ifugao, and the Nueva Vizcaya uplands. All the applications combined cover 1.4 million hectares. If mining at the scale this indicates is allowed, the Cordillera will be devastated. We will not allow it. We will not allow our communities to be subjected to further oppression. We will not allow our rights as indigenous peoples to be trampled. We hereby warn all corporations who are planning to mine our lands that we will fight their entry into our peoples’ territories. We will likewise fight the entry of military and paramilitary forces sent by government to secure the projects of these capitalists. We will fight the militarization of the Cordillera!

We hereby commit:

That we shall consolidate and build greater unity among our communities in an uncompromising struggle to prevent large mining operations from being undertaken;

That we will wage a campaign for the nullification of GMA’s EO 270 and Mineral Action Plan, likewise for the scrapping of the Philippine Mining Act of 1995;

That we shall assert our individual and collective human rights;

That we shall remain vigilant in guarding and defending our lands, and that we will employ all possible means to prevent the destruction of our territories by large capitalist mining;

That we will expose and oppose the bad practices of capitalist mining companies;

That we will empower our communities, through education and organizing, for the defense of ancestral land and livelihood;

That we will participate in a process of developing alternative mining programs and policies in the context of the Filipino people’s struggle for national industrialization and genuine agrarian reform;

That we shall forge partnerships and solidarity relations with other progressive groups and individuals who are involved in anti-mining, human rights, and environmental defense struggles in our region, throughout the nation, and abroad.

Junk the mining applications and revoke the mining permits of
big capitalist corporations, both foreign and local.

Defend the land and patrimony of the people against imperialist mining!

Nullify EO270 and the Mineral Action Plan.

Stop the liberalization of the Philippine mining industry!

Scrap the Philippine Mining Act of 1995!

Assert the genuine recognition of the indigenous peoples collective rights over their land and resources, and to self determination!

Stop militarization and the violation of human rioghts!

Published with financial contribution from the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation
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