CANDON CITY — Business interests of mining and corporate plantations are the reasons behind the military deployment in Ilocos Sur, according to the Ilocos Human Rights Alliance (IHRA).
“Mining and tobacco corporations’ interest, and the plantations for eucalyptus and cassava are the key drivers of militarization of the Second District of Ilocos Sur,” said IHRA secretary General Ma. Zoilo Baladad in a statement.
In her statement, Baladad asserts that the deployment of forces from the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army (IDPA), Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB) and Provincial Public Safety Company (PPSC) is anchored on the Aquino government’s agenda to ensure foreign investment on agriculture and resource exploitation.
She underscored that the establishment of the 81st IBPA’s headquarters in Brgy. Bugbuga, Sta. Cruz, Ilocos Sur is also linked to the business interests of town Vice Mayor Virgilio Valle. “It is not a mere coincidence that the deployment and construction of a battalion headquarter in the municipality came after residents complained of the plantation, the mining operation and cassava contract growing that are associated with Vice Mayor Valle,” Baladad said.
Church groups and IHRA have unceasingly assailed the placement of the military headquarters in the area for violating the internationally accepted norms of armed conflict and provisions of Republic Act 7610 on children in areas affected by armed conflict. Ilocos Sur, according to national human rights group Karapatan, is among the provinces where rampant military encampment in schools and public places occurs.
Municipalities in the 2nd Congressional District are also the targets of foreign large-scale mining interest. As of July 2015, three mining corporations namely Freeport McMoran-Phelps Dodge, Cordillera Exploration and Resources, and Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company have applications covering Cervantes and Quirino. Both municipalities, Baladad said, are currently under sustained and intensive military operations including the towns of Suyo, Salcedo, Sta. Lucia and Sta. Cruz. “Militarization has always been an integral part of the implementation of extractive projects,” she said.
Last May, IHRA documented rights violation perpetrated by the RPSB and 81st IBPA during a three-day Pastoral Mission with the United Church of Christ in the Philippines. Violations committed against the populace range includes harassment and intimidation, outright disregard of indigenous culture and security of the residents.
IHRA is joining the Martsa Amianan, a march-caravan of people’s organizations in Northern Luzon, to protest the impact of the plunder of resources and rights violations in different areas spurred by globalization. # nordis.net