“In times of tyranny and injustice, when law oppresses the people, the ‘outlawed’ takes his place in history.”
Mining corporations in the Philippines, in collusion with the government, try in vain to convince the people of the concept of “mine safety” despite historical facts that clearly speak of massive environmental destruction, displacement of indigenous communities from ancestral lands, dangerous working conditions and countless loss of lives. “Mine safety” remains an oxymoron, a myth, in a society where corporate greed and government corruption lord over the people’s welfare.
History of mining plunder and disasters
Through the enforcement of Duterte’s Executive Order 70 or the “whole-of-nation approach to end insurgency”, combined elements of the AFP and PNP have been using brute force to intimidate, harass, vilify and even kill defenders of human rights, environment and land rights.
Here are some historical facts about large-scale mining in Cordillera:
The biggest disasters brought about by large-scale mining operations are caused by the collapse of tailings dams that hold mine wastes and toxic chemicals. Our water sources and agricultural lands are being poisoned affecting the health and well-being of indigenous communities, as well as, residents of nearby low-lying provinces.
The Cordillera’s mountainous terrain and its vast river systems is very vulnerable during massive rains and other natural calamities. In the advent of climate change, large-scale mining operations cause greater risks of disasters and loss of life.
Corporate greed and government connivance
We are never safe under the current mining system especially with the Philippine Mining Act 0f 1995. Mine workers and mining communities alike gained very little compared to the massive devastation and exploitation brought about by large-scale mining operations.
Mining corporations have always put primacy on profit over the people’s interest. Mine workers have long suffered from unsafe working conditions, unjust wages, denial of benefits and trade union rights. For instance, the LCMC workers condemned the management for its failure to implement their collective bargaining agreement (CBA) which led to the union strike in 2005. In 2010, around 452 union officers and members were illegally dismissed.
Despite the recent termination of the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) of OceanaGold gold and copper mines in Nueva Vizcaya in June 2019, the company continues to operate in the ancestral domain of the Tuwali-Ifugao. Amid strong opposition of the affected communities, local government and environmental advocates, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources callously supported the continuation of the mining operations up to present.
The government, through its armed forces, protects the mining corporations through militarization of communities and quelling any form of resistance from the people. Our right to self-determination in our ancestral land territories are being violated through the manipulation of the process of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). State terrorism in the form of human rights violations, indiscriminate bombing, trumped-up charges and military operations targeting civilians aim to deny the people of their right to decide freely and coerce them into allowing extractive industries into our ancestral lands. These actual threat to the lives of indigenous peoples is an outright manifestation that large-scale mining operations are unsafe.
More disasters await with AFTA 08 of CEXCI-Nickel Asia Corporation-Sumitomo and other mining applications
The mineral-rich Cordillera mountains, our ancestral domain, remain as one of the primary targets of greedy corporate interests. The Cordillera Exploration Company Inc. (CExCI), a subsidiary of the notorious Nickel-Asia Corporation (NAC) owned by the Zamoras in partnership with the Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. Ltd. (SMM) based in Japan, plans to extract gold and other minerals in 72,958.82 hectares of land in Cordillera and parts of Ilocos Sur through its Application for Financial and Technical Assistance No. 08 (AFTA 08), and Exploration Permit Applications (EXPA) No. 116, 037 and 014.
The people of Cordillera will not allow the entry of more greedy mining corporations in our ancestral lands that will destroy our land, life and resources. In August, more than 300 delegates from the provinces of Cordillera and Ilocos Sur had gathered in Sagada, Mountain Province for the AYWANAN Environment and Mining Summit to reiterate our opposition to the AFTA-08 and exploration applications of CExCI. We initiated a petition to be signed by the people of Cordillera especially the affected communities that manifest our strong stance to never allow CExCI to plunder our lands. Members of the academe, clergy, local government units, farmers’ groups, youth, women, environmental advocates and other sectors affirm the Cordillera people’s unity to fight the entry of CExCI in our ancestral land territories.
Aywanan ti Cordillera!
Amid the unceasing corporate greed and foreign interests that salivate over the wealth of our lands, the mining corporations, energy projects, corrupt politicians, coupled with the unrelenting attacks on our right to self-determination and basic human rights, it is our duty to unite and defend our lands for our future generations. Our rallying call remains -- Aywanan ti Cordillera! Nurture the Cordillera! This is our home, our life, our environment, which our forefathers have courageously defended and even laid their lives for.