The recent Environmental Summit in Baguio to observe Earth Day and Cordillera Day resulted to a people’s declaration that stated: “We are alarmed that Baguio’s environment is now in deep crisis, reaching such a state of environmental degradation, that we experience daily its stark impacts. We suffer the evidences of urban blight such as the garbage problem, the lack of water, dying rivers, the poor air quality, traffic and congestion, the increase in natural disasters, food insecurity, unemployment, homelessness, shrinking forest areas and watersheds, and biodiversity loss. These phenomena are clear signs that we may be crossing critical boundaries and approaching dangerous tipping points in the state of the city’s, if not the planet’s, environment.”
In the Northern Luzon mining summit held some four months ago, it was collectively recognized that: “The Mining Act of 1995 revitalized the mining industry by allowing its liberalization. The law practically surrendered the country’s patrimony by offering so many incentives, privileges and guarantees to foreign investors: 100% ownership, 100% repatriation of capital and profits, easement rights, water rights, timber rights and tax incentives. The country was open to giving up 81,000 hectares per application for lease from 25 to 50 years. In 2004 alone, it opened up 13 million hectares (or 45%) of the Philippines’ total land area to applications. This was home to 13 million (or 16%) of the country’s population who are upland farmers and mostly indigenous peoples. In Northern Luzon, big foreign mining corporations aggressively entered almost all provinces. These corporations were awarded permits to conduct operations not only in new and expansion areas but also in areas that had been closed.” (Kaduami)
Mankayan, Benguet, had the largest number of participants mobilized in this year’s decentralized observance of the traditional Cordillera day in the region. Their number and their calls, organized and spontaneous, summed up the growing voice of a people: “Isardeng ti operasyon ti panagminas… uston ti panagdadael ti karayan. Pull out state armed forces (from Mankayan). No to mining!”
The care for the land has been that age old bilin of the ancestors and elders, “land is life, nurture, defend the land…”. People who have worked the land to sustain their families and communities know this well, if they farm it they also know the value of water and recognize the importance of the trees, the forest, the rock in the foundations of the land and the safety of their homes.
The entry of the cash economy has altered values and has clouded judgement. The communities now know that their home land areas wasted by the mining companies has brought very little income or even none at all; and even magnified the effects of natural disasters to their communities. They are not blind to what the armed forces actually do and are used for when deployed in their villages. They also know that medical missions carry medical instruments and not bullets or guns.
They now continue to learn what good governance is, and what the role of their unity, and working together in their growing numbers is to make better their home and their “ili” communities secure. # nordis.net