By ADELA WAYAS
QUEZON CITY — While the Chamber of Mines welcomes the new mining policy, affected indigenous peoples vow to resist policies that threaten their land and culture. They called the Executive Order 79 a rehash of the Mining Act of 1995 that allures foreign companies to extract resources from their ancestral lands.
Indigenous groups, environmental activists, advocates and members of the church held a picket in front of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources after the new mining policy was signed by President Benigno Aquino III. The groups staged a protest rally on Monday, July 10, at the Mendiola bridge, slamming the said EO.
Piya Macliing Malayao, a Bontoc and spokesperson of the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Kamp), said thousands of indigenous peoples are affected by this piece of policy. “It is mainly our ancestral lands that are being traded off in these mining deals,” she said. She added that mining is the largest threat to the indigenous peoples’ survival.
Kamp is a national alliance of indigenous peoples in the Philippines.
The indigenous peoples in the country defy the new mining policy and vow to continue the struggle until their rights to their own ancestral territories and self-determination are recognized by the state.
Mining plunder affirmation
The new mining policy, according to the Katribu Partylist, fails to recognize the clamor of different sectors to nationalize the country’s mineral industry. Kakay Tolentino, also an IP of the Dumagat tribe and spokesperson of Katribu, emphasized that the executive order only continues to implement liberalized and destructive mining operations in the country.
“This new mining policy provides no substantive changes to the present liberalized mining industry,” Tolentino claimed. She called the EO palliative -offering sugar-coated solutions that do not really address the ills brought about by liberalized mining. More importantly, it fails to protect the country’s national patrimony, sovereignty and real development as it only serves the interest of big foreign corporations.
Though stated that “no new mineral agreements shall be entered into until a legislation rationalizing existing revenue sharing schemes and mechanisms shall have taken effect,” the EO will not affect the thousands of mining applications already filed before its enactment. It further states that the DENR may continue to grant and issue Exploration permits under existing laws. Those who are granted permits shall be given the right of first option to develop and utilize minerals in their respective exploration area.
Even the proposal to increase government revenue from mining will be subjected to legislation. According to Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, they expect a powerful lobby of the Chamber of Mines to go full swing to stop any legislation that will be detrimental to the profits of the big mining firms.
The group said everything in the new EO plays to reaffirm the anti-people and pro-imperialist policies under the Mining Act of 1995.
Moreover, the creation of a One-stop shop for all mining applications and procedures is a proof that the government is not satisfied in trading off ancestral lands to a mining industry geared for foreign firms. Tyrone Beyer, Policy Advocacy Officer of the Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, said the EO is giving more power to DENR in verifying minerals in the areas open to mining.
Though the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) is mentioned, he said that the IPs and communities affected must be vigilant to how the EO is going to be implemented and used by the government and concerning agencies like DENR, Mines and Geosciences Bureau, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples and others.
Beyer said IPs have strong opposition to destructive mining and projects entering their territories, yet mining firms and other companies are still granted certificates from DENR, NCIP, MGB and even local government units. “The IPs are being deceived and disregarded in the FPIC process, some of them are harassed or killed. And these result to forced displacements and evacuations, erosion of culture and food insecurity,” he pointed out.
“There is no respect to the IPs own governance. The indigenous communities arrive at collective decisions but these agencies and mining corporations encroaching their territories disregard the customary laws of the IPs. And when the decision is not favorable to the project, militarization comes in, further violating indigenous peoples rights. Even state instruments, such as the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, are being ignored,” Beyer explained. He said these problems are not being addressed in the EO.
According to the data of KAMP, there are around 507 approved mining applications that cover 1,027,358 hectares of Philippine land. An estimated 60% of all these applications cover ancestral territories.
The Northern experience
Northern Luzon is known for its large mineral reserves in both upland and coastal areas, discovered since the 19th century when Spanish conquistadores started declaring its mountains inalienable and subjected them for drilling. The entry of the American conquerors spurred the entry of foreign mining companies in the country, drilling off the mountains of Cordillera for minerals, mining it for centuries leaving the control of the industry in the hands of foreign magnates such as Lepanto and Philex Mines.
Meanwhile, this mining industry for the past decades only left millions of natives of Northern Luzon suffering from the adverse effects of ecologically-unsound mining practices, in both the upland areas which serve as their headwaters and the coastal areas that are shelters to fisher folks.
According to Bantay Amianan, the million farmers working in vast land areas that provide the country with 36% rice produce, 26% corn and 65% vegetables are being endangered to lose the fertility of their land and the waterways that irrigate their farmlands having been contaminated by mining by-products that coursed into streams and rivers. Bantay Amianan is an alliance of organizations and individuals based in Metro Manila, who advocate for the protection and preservation of the natural resources in Northern Luzon, in opposition to the rampant plunder of foreign mining companies in the region.
The alliance said the experience of the people of Northern Luzon in mining should serve as a challenge not to allow destructive projects that endanger the environment. They said the government must put an end to all mining operations in the country.
Ria Teves of the Project Development Institute said “as an archipelago (Philippines), mining is not suited for our very limited geographic space, aside from the fact that even the smallest space is occupied by our people, with a population of almost 95 million.” She emphasized that the revenue sharing scheme in the EO is also highly controversial.
Peoples Mining Bill
The wide opposition of the people against the mining EO only shows the need to reorient the mining law in the Philippines. A legislative bill, titled the Peoples Mining Bill, is now being consolidated with other positive mining measures in Congress.
“Obviously, EO 79 that actually favors big players, will rattle every sector in the mining industry – most especially environmentalists, small-scale miners, people’s organizations and local government units. It is only right that we push the legislative mill to come up with a new mining law since the E.O. does not veer away from the Mining Act of 1995 (Republic Act 7492),” Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casiño said .
Cong. Casiño is the main author of House Bill 4315 or the Peoples mining Bill. Fellow legislators Neri Colmenares (Bayan Muna), Rafael Mariano (Anakpawis), Raymond Palatino (Kabataan), Luzviminda Ilagan, and Emmi De Jesus (Gabriela), Antonio Tinio (ACT Teachers), Salvador Cabaluna III (1-Care), Pedro Pancho (Bulacan), Herminia Roman (Bataan), Cesar Jalosjos (Zamboanga Del Norte), and Erico Aumentado (Bohol) are Co-Authors.
“The said bill will repeal R.A. 7492, Presidential Decree 463, Presidential Decree 512, and all other pro-foreign mining issuances in the country. We will also mandate greater shares for the government (10 percent) and indigenous peoples royalty (10 percent) from the gross revenue from mining under a National Industrialization Plan that Aquino government has yet to draft. It also respects and will aid small-scale miners on the long-term. This is what is not in E.O 79,” Casiño said.
Meanwhile, Congressman Teddy Brawner Baguilat , chairperson of the Committee on National Cultural Communities (NCC), also called for the urgent passage of a mining law to correct the flaws in the Mining Act of 1995. “While the latest EO on mining seeks to implement reforms, it will not be enough because it is still based on the flawed Mining Act of 1995,”stressed Baguilat. Cong. Baguilat is also pushing for an alternative mining bill in the Lower House that seeks to increase liability and accountability on mining firms in case of environmental disasters and institutionalizes the ban on mining in areas mentioned in the new mining EO.
The Peoples Mining Bill is as well supported by the different churches in the country. # nordis.net