June 21, 2009 in Cordillera
By ARTHUR ALLAD-IW
Last of three parts
Revitalization of mining industry
The mining in the region is part of Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s campaign to revitalize the mining industry, according to Cordillera regional agencies. Earlier last year, Malacanang said that the mining industry will generate $1.4 billion in investments in last three years and raise it to $10 billion by 2011.
The development to be brought by mining, however, is being questioned by elders and local officials. Sagada Sangguniang Bayan Member Jaime Dugao claimed that “development” brought by mining is lopsided for the benefit of corporate interests, even the employment promises will not assure accommodation of the locals who are mostly not having the technical know-how on large and advance mining.
“We might be giving our resources in exchange of these mining companies’ small taxes that they give to the government in return. The life support systems provided by our forests, our rivers and our sustainable environs, however, could not be paid by any amount of money,” added Dugao, who also chairs an elders’ group in this province.
He added: “We are not against development. But an eye opener for us however is the experience of our brothers in Benguet. Large-scale mining has been destroying their environment since the third quarter of the 19th century since corporate mining supplanted their traditional copper mining sites in Mankayan and logged the forests of northern Benguet for mine timber and smelter fuel.”
In addressing Catholic Bishops gathering on mining, Dugao appealed for their support on their struggle against large-scale mining in the region and for the repeal of R.A. 7942, otherwise known as the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.
Systemic violation of land rights
An elder from the brave and feared-Tulgao sub-tribe of Kalinga, Johnny Sawadan explained that the state’s declaration of their communities and lands as reservations and the acceptance of mine applications over their domains are institutionalized violations of their inherent rights to their ancestral domains.
“Our indigenous land use and utilization had been on-going prior to the establishment of colonial governments,” said Sawadan, secretary-general of the Cordillera Elders Alliance (CEA).
“Various international laws where the Philippine government is a signatory and even the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) and other laws recognize indigenous rights to their land and environment,” he said. But they just learn of these projects (mining) when they are being processed adding:
“There is no prior information done to the people. Our role (as villagers) is just to be consulted whether we allow these domains of ours that we nurtured for generation,” said Sawadan who cited such arrangement as unfair for the real people who cared for their environment.
He pointed out that the State policy that it owns the land and resources is a manifestation of the State disregard over their age-old indigenous system as systemic national oppression perpetuated by the state itself.
As an answer for the state policy of non-recognition of their ancestral domain right, they are pushing for genuine regional autonomy. He hopes that their campaign will be elevated to a higher level, especially that this year, is still a part of the International Decade for Indigenous Peoples based on the United Nations resolution.#