By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
MANILA — Police officers and security guards of a high class hotel in Pasay were not able to stop more than 300 Igorots, other indigenous peoples and Moros who stormed the Philippine Mining conference on September 6 to condemn the unhampered plunder of their ancestral lands by mining companies.
Santos Mero, deputy secretary general of the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA), said that their experience at the hotel, where police officers tried to block them from staging a protest action is no different from their experience in their villages where government security forces are used to quell their opposition to the entry of big mining companies.
But, Mero appealed to Igorot police officers to defend their ancestral lands from big mining companies and with their people. “Like what our elders say, to those who are schooled use what you have learned to protect your fellow IPs,” he said.
“To those who are in the police force, instead of standing guard here at the mining conference where big businesses are probably talking about how to exploit IP communities to rake in more profit, come back and defend your ancestral land,” Mero said.
He stressed that government soldiers are deployed to IP communities where big mines operate or applied for to secure the interest of mining firms under the guise of counter insurgency. He said that communities affected by mining operations are being militarized to quell the people’s opposition.
To end their protest action that day, IPs and Moros burned a mural representing the continuing plunder and exploitation of their communities by big mining firms.
“Our struggle against the oppressive and exploitative mining plunder in our ancestral lands does not end here, we will continue to intensify our struggle drawing strength from our experiences and wisdom from our ancestors,” Mero said.
Mero reiterated that to IPs land is life, therefore their struggle for the defense of their land is a struggle for life not just for the present generation but for the those yet to come.
“It is part of our culture to take up arms to defend our ancestral territories, our ancestors took up arms then and gave up their lives to protect our ancestral birthright,” Mero said.
In an earlier statement, CPA Chair Windel Bolinget said the entry of mining companies violated indigenous peoples’ right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of communities concerned. He added that the government military even help mining companies secure their applications and operations resulting to the killing of indigenous human rights defenders.
The Cordillera is the watershed cradle of northern Luzon but is ravaged by the operations of mining and energy corporations. New applications alone cover 428, 046 hectares on top of the operations of Lepanto, Philex and Benguet Corporation. There are also 81 approved hydroelectric power plants with 16 pending, on top of the operations of Binga and Ambuklao.
“These urgent issues are of life and death, and thus are the issues at the heart of the Kaigorotan participation to Lakbayan 2017. For how can we have self-determination now, when our communities are bombed and militarized? How can we be self-determining when destructive projects are imposed in our indigenous territories in the name of ‘development’? How can there be self-determination of national minorities when there is unpeace?” Bolinget said. # nordis.net