By KIMBERLIE OLMAYA NGABIT-QUITASOL
LACUB, Abra — Elders from the Cordillera signed a unity pact (pagta) against large scale mining and militarization on April 27 during the Cordillera Day celebrations here in barangay Buneg.
According to Johnny Sawadan of the Cordillera Elders Alliance (CEA), the unity pact was a result of a workshop held here. He said through the sharing and discussions, the elders representing all six provinces of the region deemed wise to seal a pact to protect the Cordillera from destructive mining and rights violations brought about by militarization.
Data from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources showed that 1.2 million hectares of the 1.8 million hectare total land area of the Cordillera is covered with approved and ongoing large scale mining applications.
Sawadan reiterated that the experience of the Benguet people is enough proof of the irreversible destruction that large scale mining brings to the environment. He added that host communities in Benguet continues to bear the brunt of decades of mining.
“Their forests were denuded, rivers poisoned and villages displaced. They lost their ricefields and gardens, their source of food and water. We must preserve what is left of our natural resources now for the future generation’s survival,” he added.
Sawadan also pointed out that the presence of military troops particularly encamping in the houses of villagers poses danger to the entire community. He added that in the experience of many communities in the region, soldiers violate the individual and collective rights of the community folk.
“These are the experiences in many of the Cordillera communities. The unity pact aims to address these problems,” he added.
The unity pact declared that indigenous communities in the region must not allow the entry of large scale mining and other destructive projects such as dams and geothermal plants in their territories. It also called on comunities to bar elements of the military to encamp in houses and to demand pull out of military troops fron the villages.
The pact also called for erring government officials and agencies who violated the rights of indigenous peoples to be brought to justice. It further prohibits anyone to become spies or private armed men of the military and corrupt warlord politicians as it also prohibits anyone from collaborating with mining, dam and geothermal companies. # nordis.net