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Cordillera communities stand ready to defend their land and patrimony against imperialist mining

Mining-affected communities in the Cordillera close ranks to mount a widespread opposition over the impending approval of several mining application in the Cordillera. Over 200 delegates from the provinces of Benguet, Mountain Province, Abra, Ifugao, Kalinga, as well neighboring provinces of the Ilocos region and the Cagayan valley, gathered in front of the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) to call for the scrapping of the 10 year-old Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and demanded the disapproval of mining applications. As of January 2005, there were already 138 applications being processed, covering a total of more than 1.4 million hectares which is around 78% of the total land area of the Cordillera region.

The provincial delegates are in Baguio City to attend the Cordillera Regional Conference on Mining until March 4 at La Consolacion Villa. They raised their alarm over the naming of many of the Arroyo administration’s 23 priority mining sites within the Cordillera Region in addition to other mining applications.

More than 40 small-scale miners from Kalinga, Abra, Mountain Province and Benguet expressed their anxieties about the possible takeover of their pocket and placer mining locations by Newmont and Newcrest mining companies. “Why should we allow these foreign companies to take away our resources and destroy our territory? As tribal villages, our practice of traditional mining is in line with our right over our resources, and to benefit directly from it, so we do not allow outsiders to exploit our land,” said Casiano Luginday, a small scale miner of the Banao Bodong Association of Kalinga. Newmont Mining Company is presently the leading gold mining company in the world, with a badly tarnished social and environmental record in various parts of the world. Other mining companies with applications in the Cordillera include Asia-Pacific Basin Mining, Wolfland Resources, Northern Luzon Exploration, Oxiana, among others.

Declared under the Mineral Action Plan and E.O. 270 (on Revitalizing the Philippine Mining Industry) are the following projects: the Teresa Gold and Far Southeast Gold Projects of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (Benguet), the Padcal Expansion Project of Philex (Benguet), the Itogon Gold Project of the Itogon-Suyoc Mines (Benguet), the Batong-Buhay Gold Project (Kalinga), the Bucay Magnetite River Iron Sand Project (Abra), the Sanvig Iron Sand and Alluvial Gold Project (Ilocos Sur) and the Capcapo Copper-Gold Project (Abra).

During the workshops, participants pointed out that the value of their resources should not be measured in millions of dollars, but in terms of ensuring food security and meeting basic needs. “ Why do we have to dig big holes and dump mountains of toxic waste just to get the gold underneath, when this will destroy our local economies which have sustained us for generations?”. This was the question asked by a Mountain Province elder who could not comprehend why the government has become heartless in selling out the peoples resources. Another concern raised by community leaders is the worsening militarization of villages, which they believe may be used against protesters of mining applications.

The participants vowed to consolidate their ranks and exercise sustained vigilance against the plunder of their resources. ”We shall not disgrace our ancestors in our obligation to defend our land, and we will not hesitate to use all forms of defense if necessary. We shall build the broadest unity among ourselves and forge solidarity with groups and individuals in other regions of the country and abroad in our just and legitimate struggle to affirm our collective rights and dignity as indigenous peoples against national oppression and imperialist globalization.” This was the evolving resolution of the participants in the Cordillera Regional Mining Conference.

For reference:
Joan Carling
Conference Secretariat
c/o Cordillera People’s Alliance

Published with financial contribution from the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation
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