Jun 26, 2007

Cordillera: Call for Pro-people Mining Policy

Indigenous leaders from the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) and the Save Apayao Peoples Organization (SAPO) denounced the entry of foreign mining companies.

Indigenous leaders from the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) and the Save Apayao Peoples Organization (SAPO) denounced the entry of foreign mining companies.

Below are extracts of an article written by M.E. Corazon J. Jazmines and published by the Manila Times International:


Cordilleran community leaders protest against mining

Cordillera indigenous leaders from the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) and the Save Apayao Peoples Organization (SAPO) joined environmental advocates and other community leaders in calling for a propeople mining policy and denouncing the entry of foreign mining companies to the country during the 7th Asia Pacific Mining Conference and Exhibit in Manila on June 5 [2007]. Sponsored by the Asean Federation of Mining Associations (AFMA) and the Philippine Chamber of Mines, the conference aimed at at­tract­ing more foreign mining companies to invest in the Asia-Pacific region.

“Mining policies such as the Mining Act of 1995 and President Arroyo’s rabid promotion of mining liberalization is a complete sell-out of the people’s patrimony to foreign capitalists, while leaving behind irreparable environmental, social and cultural damages for the people to suffer. The entry of Anglo American and other giant mining companies such as the BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining company, in the Cordillera will bring about further destruction to the people’s resources,” said Santos Mero, CPA deputy secretary-general and regional spokesman for the Defend Patrimony Alliance.

Anglo American, the world’s fourth-largest mining company based in the United Kingdom, has at least four projects in the Philippines that are included in the Arroyo administration’s 24 Priority Mining Projects, three of which are located in the Cordillera region. These are the Conner Copper Gold Project in Apayao and Kalinga province through its local subsidiary, Cordillera Exploration, Inc. (CEXI), the Padcal Copper Extension Project in Tuba, Benguet, in partnership with Philex Mining Corp., and the Far Southeast Project in Mankayan, Benguet, in partnership with Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corp.

“Anglo American has notorious human rights and environmental records in its operations in South Africa and North America. It was named by the Canada Com­mission for Environmental Cooperation as one of the main lead polluters throughout North America and it has paid South Africans the world’s lowest wages. We do not want this to happen in the Cordillera,” Mero added.

Alarmed over the intensifying mining in the Philippines and its consequential damage to the people and their resources, protesters during the Asia Pacific Mining Con­ference asserted their resistance to “foreign plunder of the people’s resources” and for “justice to all victims of environmental plunder.”

According to Mero, “large scale mining in the Cordillera and elsewhere in the country has resulted in massive destruction of the people’s resources and outright violation of human rights and indigenous peoples’ rights. When people oppose these mining operations that are fully backed by the Arroyo administration, they are threatened, intimidated or even killed.”

Mero cited the case of Tina Moyaen, SAPO chairman and an active antimining advocate, who has received death threats at the height of her organization’s strong opposition to Anglo American’s mining exploration project in Conner, Apayao. “SAPO has persistently opposed Anglo American’s exploration activities. Through the leadership of Tina, the Free, Prior and Informed Consent [FPIC], which was the basis of the approval of the company’s permit to explore was questioned along with the conduct of the agencies and local government officials that have facilitated the acquisition of the FPIC certificate.”

“We call on the newly elected officials of local governments in the Cordillera to listen to the voice of the people and not stick to their personal promining positions. The government should also put a moratorium on mining in the Cordillera until such time that an alternative propeople mining policy is upheld,” Mero added.

Mero and Moyaen recently attended Anglo American’s annual general meeting in London on April 17 [2007] to register indigenous peoples’ opposition to the company’s mining projects in the Cor­dillera. They demanded from the company a pull-out of Anglo Ame­rican’s projects in the Cor­dillera, recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights, support to genuine FPIC, and promotion of people-centered sustainable development.