By MA. ZOILO BALADAD
VIGAN CITY, Ilocos Sur — “Mining and tobacco corporations’ interest, and the plantations for eucalyptus and cassava are the key drivers of militarization of the Second District of Ilocos Sur,” declares the Ilocos Human Rights Alliance (IHRA).
The group asserts that the deployment of forces from the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army (IDPA) and elements of the Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB) and Provincial Public Safety Company (PPSC) is anchored on President Aquino’s agenda to ensure foreign investment on agriculture and resource exploitation.
They also underscored that the establishment of the 81st IBPA’s headquarters in Brgy. Bugbuga, Sta. Cruz, Ilocos Sur which they linked to the business interest of town Vice Mayor Virgilio Valle.
“It is not a mere coincidence that the deployment and construction of a battalion headquarters in the municipality came after residents complained of the plantation, the mining operation and cassava contract growing that are associated with Vice Mayor Valle,” adds IHRA.
Church groups and IHRA have unceasingly assailed the placement of the military installation in the area for violating the internationally accepted norms of armed conflict and provisions of Republic Act 7610 on children in areas affected by armed conflict. Ilocos Sur is among the provinces that national human rights group Karapatan noted where the encampment of military forces in schools and public places are rampant.
Municipalities belonging to the Congressional District are also the targets of foreign large-scale mining interest. As of July 2015, three mining corporations are eyeing Cervantes and Quirino. Freeport McMoran-Phelps Dodge and Cordillera Exploration and Resources, Inc., and Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company have claims or applications covering the two municipalities. Both are currently the subject of sustained and intensive military operations including the towns of Suyo, Salcedo, Sta. Lucia and Sta. Cruz. The group said that militarization has always been an integral part of the opening of extractive projects.
“Last May, the IHRA were able to document rights violation by the RPSB and 81st IBPA during our three-day Pastoral Mission with the United Church of Christ in the Philippines. Violations committed against the populace ranges from harassment and intimidation to outright disregard of indigenous culture and security of the residents of three communities,” stated the group.
IHRA is among the organizations who are preparing to join the #MartsaAmianan, a march-caravan of people’s organizations in Northern Luzon to protest the impact of resources plunder and rights violations in different areas spurred by globalization. # nordis.net