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The Myth of Safe and Responsible Mining

Statement on the Occasion of Mining Safety Week

November 17, 2005

The Cordillera Peoples Alliance finds it impossible to share with the government and the mining companies the observance of Mining Safety Week in the face of a growing, gaping wound the mining industry has caused indigenous peoples’ lands, their communities and their very lives. It is disgusting how the government and its concerned agencies project a necessary celebration when the evils of destructive mining and the myth of safe and responsible mining has done nothing but aggravated the danger and losses to people in the affected communities.

It is deplorable how, with the recent mine waste spill in the waters of Rapu-rapu, Albay and the gold blast mine Mt. Diwata, Compostela Valley, the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo administration finds the knack to carry on with this sham and hypocritical celebration. Inspite of the continued cries of protest of mining affected communities, the Arroyo government remains steadfast in its mining revitalization agenda by fully liberalizing the local mining industry and aggressively putting up for sale indigenous peoples’ land and resources, the country’s mineral resources and patrimony. As a consequence of the government’s own doing, environmental destruction and violation of indigenous peoples’ right to self determination will become unprecedented.

From the beginning, large scale mining was a life and death issue among the indigenous peoples in the Cordillera. The mining history in the Cordillera region and the current state of mining affected communities shows that mining companies have never been responsible at all when it did not rehabilitate and compensate these communities, leaving the people therein exposed to all sorts of risk. It has violated their right to freely determine their own path to development, with the use and management of their own resources.

In our historical experience on corporate, large-scale mining, there is no safety to speak of, only looming danger and risk at the expense of mineworkers and the affected communities. This lack of safety also pertains to the government’s gross disrespect of indigenous peoples collective land rights, their ancestral domain an resources. There is no safety in mining as the concern of mining corporations is profit and greed only. Nor is there any promise of development, as in the case of Benguet communities ravaged by mining as it remains among the poorest provinces. This causeless celebration does not deceive us. We have never been safe under corporate and destructive mining!

Now, the Arroyo regime is hell-bent in ensuring its mining policy agenda’s implementation even as it means more harm than good to the people and the country. Instead of correcting the historic injustice against indigenous peoples, the Arroyo government has fashioned its mining policies such that these aggravate the already marginalized conditions of the people. First, the Mining Act of 1995, next the weakening and undermining the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and various executive orders and pronouncements that further national oppression of indigenous peoples. Likewise, it has used the Department of Labor and Employment in violating workers’ rights as in the series of terminations and retrenchment in Lepanto, Mankayan inspite of the no-retaliatory provision of their MOA with the company management in relation to the 4-month strike. In Philex mines, the mineworkers were forcibly retrenched and driven out after the company used them for its superprofit. Even their children have been deprived of their basic right to education when the company banned them to enroll in schools within the mine camp. And if the workers organize and fight for their rights, mining companies respond by means of union busting, termination, dismissal, and military and police deployment resulting to various forms of human rights violations.

It is also repelling that the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) allows the flawed implementation of the FPIC. For instance, it chose to be ignore the Buaya tribe’s petition not recognizing the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) sought by Anglo-American subsidiary Cordillera Exploration Inc. with their tribe.

The safety of indigenous peoples is on the peoples’ hands and strength. It is very difficult to rely solely on the government. The people must further unite and advance the struggle for the defense of their lands and livelihood resources, security, genuine peace and progress. Momentarily, we will continue to wield our efforts and participate in the broad, national movement for the resignation or ouster of GMA. Besides being illegitimate and anti-indigenous peoples, President Arroyo is responsible and condemned of her mining policies that cost us oppression and exploitation.

Promote Safe and Responsible Mining and Respect Indigenous Peoples Rights!
No to mining liberalization and plunder of the peoples’ resources!
Rehabilitate mined-out areas and compensate victims of mining disasters!
Persevere in the struggle for the genuine recognition of indigenous peoples land and collective rights!
Oust Gloria Macapagal Arroyo!

Windel Bolinget
Secretary General, Cordillera Peoples Alliance

Published with financial contribution from the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation
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