By JULIE DOROJA and LEVI GLEN INGENTE
MANILA – Community residents from Mankayan, Benguet and Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya along with progressive from North Luzon staged a series of protest actions at the doors of the headquarters of two major mining firms in Makati on October 13.
Both groups called for the permanent closure of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corporation (LCMC) and the Oceana Gold Corporation which operate in Mankayan and Didipio respectively. According to them, the mining operations of these two mining corporations brought nothing but destruction to the environment and their traditional livelihood, and repeatedly violated their human rights.
While they laud the recommendation for suspension of LCMC, the protesters demanded that to give justice to the destruction and violations the mining firms have to permanently stop their operations.
Decades of destruction in Mankayan
Residents from Mankayan claimed that the audit by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) was incomplete and wanting of unaccounted major environmental and human rights concerns.
They mentioned the sinking of a public school building in Colalo traced to the decades of underground mining operations of the LCMC. Sinkholes were also spotted in different parts of Mankayan which raises the possibility of another disaster similar to Colalo. Residents also claimed that LCMC is not providing jobs for the local residents but are employing contractual workers from other different places.
Moreover, the protesters raised dissent over the trumped up charges filed against the people of Madaymen, Mankayan for raising manning barricades to stop the exploration project of LCMC in their farm area. Over 180 cases were filed against the people for alleged violation of the Mining Act of 1995.
Community protest floods Oceana Gold
Conditions are not far different in Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya, host to the Australian corporation Oceana Gold’s open-pit mining operations. Villagers living by the mining site complained about the noise and the vibration brought about by the explosions done til the wee hours of the night.
Furthermore, they lamented of how the river, once a major source of living, is continuously polluted by chemical wastes spilled from the mine-tailings dams and even human waste from the sewerage of residential areas and offices. The residents claimed that OCG manipulated the environmental reports required of them by government.
In addition, the residents claimed that the project plans for social services and infrastructure Oceana Gold boasts of do not really materialize. OGC has also set up fences around their agricultural lands preventing access to the farmers.
Members of the protest group said, the local people, especially the indigenous villages since the entry of OGC, have consistently struggled to resist the mining operations. The company allegedly employed violence and harassment against the residents including cases of arson, death threats, and bribery of community leaders and the employ of security forces. These chaotic conditions forced families to move out.
Aside from launching the protest actions, traveling from their homes to Metro-Manila, the people from both communities came to share the dismal experience they are going thru as proof that the mining operations must be stopped immediately.
Along with the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), Sapakmi and Kalikasan, both communities also demanded the current administration to scrap the Mining Act of 1995 which gave foreign and local large-scale mining corporations a free pass to plunder their resources and violate their rights.
The protesters also joined the Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya para sa Sariling Pagpapasya at Makatarungang Kapayapan (see related story) which gathered national minorities such as tribes and the moros from different parts of the country.# nordis.net