BAGUIO CITY — Fourteen community leaders, activists and development workers from Southern Tagalog, Bicol and Mindanao visiting mining towns Mankayan and Itogon Wednesday and Friday last week were alarmed at the impact of mining operations on Benguet folk.
BEYOND ENVIRONMENT CONCERNS. Leaders and activists from various mining communities in the country visited Benguet mine sites in Mankayan and Itogon during a two-day mine tour facilitated by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance. Photo by Lyn V. Ramo/NORDIS
“I did not realize that mining could destroy vast tracts of indigenous peoples’ territories,” Waway Rocafort, spokesperson of Bayan-Southern Tagalog told Nordis in an interview. He joined the team that went to Mankayan and saw the sinking communities surrounding Lepanto Consolidated Mining.
Besides the physical devastation inflicted on the environment, Rocafort saw the impact of mining on the people’s lives and traditional livelihood, as well as their culture and traditions.
“Kabaligtaran talaga sa mga nababasa, hindi ko akalaing ganito kalaki ang epekto,” (Contrary to what I have read, I did not expect that the effect is this big) Rocafort kept saying.
He said he could talk on the ill-effects of large scale mining now that he has seen the Lepanto mine site.
Working with Batangas communities, Rocafort said Mindoro Resources Ltd. has an ongoing exploration work in Lubo town. The said operations cover 24,000 hectares.
The community exposure program aimed to raise the participants’ awareness on the worsening mining situation in the country; expose the breadth and impact of mining on Benguet communities and take a glimpse at how communities are addressing the threats of mining. It also attempted to understand and learn from the Cordillera experience at leading people’s movements against imperialist mining.
Another exposure beneficiary, Natasha Jaro who works for the Southern Tagalog Environmental Action Movement based in Laguna, is mingling with the Mangyan-Iraya tribe in Occidental Mindoro. She said this indigenous Mindoro tribe in Abra de Ilog town would contend with the operations of the Agusan Petroleum and Mining, which is set to mine an area covering eight barangays (villages) in the said town.
Ka Boy of the SocSarGen Region in Mindanao said he is concerned with the extent of mineral extraction by large mines. He wished he was allowed entry into the tunnels to visualize the health hazards the workers face and the extent of ore extraction underground. He also worried about the cyanide exposure on people and its impact on plants and animals.
Another team visited Itogon where several mine sites have been abandoned.
The visiting team included leaders of communities affected by Lafayette Mines in Rapu-rapu town in the Bicol Region, Zamboanga del Norte, Negros Occidental, Panay, and Cagayan Valley.
The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) facilitated the visit, which was coordinated by the Manila-based Philippine Network for the Environment-Kalikasan and the Center for Environmental Concerns. # Lyn V. Ramo