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Mindanao indigenous peoples and environment groups to PNoy: scrap current mining policy to avert another Pablo ‘apocalypse’!

anti-mining march

Press Release
December 6, 2012

MANILA  –  A group of Mindanao-based indigenous peoples and environment organizations leading a ten-day lakbayan to Metro Manila called on President Aquino to scrap the government’s standing mining policy allowing large-scale mining operations in the light of the latest disasters in Mindanao where super typhoon Pablo claimed more than two hundred lives in the provinces of Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental which have not experienced typhoons in recent years.

Environment group Panalipdan! Mindanao secretary-general Sr. Stella Matutina, OSB said that hundreds of communities in Mindanao have been rendered vulnerable to natural disasters due to the proliferation of large-scale extractive industries being promoted by the Aquino administration through existing government policies and programs such as Executive Order 79 and the Mining Act of 1995.

“Do we need typhoon Pablo to get the attention of the central government and concerned people about our issues like political killings and environmental destructions caused by big extractive industries and other agribusiness ventures?” Matutina said, adding that “we are now right smack in Manila to air out our issues.”

“What we are seeing now is an environmental apocalypse not simply caused by nature's wrath but by the Aquino’s continuing puppetry to foreign mining interests and the government’s greed and corruption in general. The heartbreaking disasters in the New Bataan and Cateel towns and elsewhere illustrate how Mindanao's environment has reached its maximum limit, and unless this government adopts a mining policy which puts people’s safety over the insatiable thirst for profits of large-scale mining companies, we can only expect greater destruction in communities where there are big mining activities," Matutina also said.

Prominent Mindanawon environmentalist Francis Morales also pointed out the presence of the 2,139.44-hectare gold and copper mining project of the Canadian-owned Philco Mining which operates in the hinterland barangay of Camanlangan in New Bataan town. To date, typhoon Pablo has left more than 70 people dead in this sleepy town which used to boast of being typhoon-free.

Morales has long sounded the alarm about the unabated mining explorations and operations in New Bataan, fearing that it will affect the integrity of various ecosystems in the area such as Mt. Kampalili-Tagub Range Complex, a known Key Biodiversity Area (KBA), and Andap and Caragan watershed areas that supply ample amount of the water for residential and agricultural uses in Compostela Valley province.

He also said that despite these serious threats to the lives of the local residents, the people have not been able to voice out their opposition due to widespread military operations which, he said, ostensibly protect big extractive industries.

“The ultimate objective of massive military deployments in New Bataan is to wipe out all types of people’s resistance against mining under the Investment Defense Force (IDF) and mining liberalization policy of the Aquino regime. Despite the community’s resistance, militarization has only resulted to displacement, intimidation and other string of human rights abuses in New Bataan,” Morales said.

Meanwhile Higaonon leader Datu Jomorito Guaynon of Bukidnon chided Noynoy for dodging the real issues and not “learning from the lessons of the past.”

Guaynon, chairperson of the indigenous people group KALUMBAY, headed an environmental mission after the Sendong tragedy almost a year ago, which left 1,257 people dead and 13,337 houses damaged.

The mission yielded a conclusion that the primary reasons for the massive devastation caused by Tropical Storm Sendong were the extensive forest denudation and destruction of the Mt. Kitanglad and Mt. Kalatungan watershed areas, and the encroachment of vast agribusiness plantations and unabated mining and quarrying operations in Bukidnon, located above the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan.

Sr. Matutina, Morales and Guaynon are part of more than 70 indigenous peoples’ leaders, environment advocates, and victims and relatives of mining-related human rights violations, which compose the delegation of Manilakbayan, a Mindanao peoples’ mobilization in Metro Manila. The mobilization calls for the stop of large-scale mining and the killing of large-scale mining oppositionists including indigenous peoples.

Thirty five persons in Mindanao, most of whom are leaders of indigenous communities, have been killed due to their resistance to large-scale mining operations.

The Manilakbayan will culminate on December 10 to mark the commemoration of the International Human Rights Day.