Towards a pro-Filipino and pro-people Mining Act

Aug. 26, 2008

To our comrades in Kamp (Kapisanan ng Mamayang Katutubo ng Pilipinas), our compatriot indigenous peoples from north to south, the Center for Environmental Concerns, guests and observers, warmest militant greetings from Bayan Muna!

During the Marcos dictatorship, the joke used to be that Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos had a very simple mining policy: that is mine, this is mine, everything is mine. I guess the times have not changed that much.

Seriously now, the policy framework of the current government, as enshrined in the Mining Act of 1995, can be summed up as follows: the more the merrier, the bigger the better. Never mind if the site targets are in populated areas. Never mind if most, if not all remaining mineral deposits in the country are in the ancestral domains of our tribal brothers and sisters. Never mind if mining operations are environmentally hazardous. As long as it is large-scale, foreign-owned, and geared for export, then by all means, mine the country. It is a policy premised on the sell out of our indigenous peoples, the national patrimony and the environment.

You know better than I the catastrophic impact of such a mining policy. The big time mining projects and applications for the same have fomented divisions and conflicts in and among various tribes and have caused the forced evictions and displacement of indigenous peoples in Abra, Benguet, Cagayan, Nueva Vizcaya, Mindoro, Zambales, Caraga, Davao Oriental, SoCSKSarGen, the Zamboanga Provinces, and in non-IP areas like Samar and Negros, to name a few.

The entry of mining companies severely alter the customary laws and ways of life of our indigenous communities. Their laws, interests and opinions are least considered by the government and mining firms. The word of the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) secretary and the President usually prevail over any opposition from the communities. The current Mining Act and related laws allow the use of deception, bribery and strong-arm tactics to force mining operations into an area.

Many tribal communities have become severely divided between those for and against mining. Mining destroys not only the environment and the people’s livelihood but their families as well. No amount of royalties and local taxes can compensate for IP (indigenous peoples) communities displaced by mining operations. Their land is their life.

Bayan Muna stands with the indigenous peoples, environment defenders and the rest of the Filipino people who oppose this kind of a mining policy. While we hold the view that mining is highly important in nation building, it should not be done at the expense of our people’s rights and the environment. Our country’s natural wealth of mineral resources is finite and needs to be reserved for Filipino citizens and optimally exploited for the genuine development of the nation.

In this light, we are one with you in opposing all forms of foreign, large-scale mining operations in the country. We are one with you in asserting your rights and protecting the environment. We are one with you in calling for the repeal of the Mining Act of 1995.

In this light, we must work towards a new mining policy that respects human rights, especially those of indigenous peoples, and gears the industry towards building a progressive, independent and self-reliant national economy. This of course should be based on the requisites of addressing the country’s industrialization requirements and to modernize the backward and inefficient agriculture production under a framework of genuine agrarian reform, social justice and food security.

Such a mining policy would be the complete opposite of the current government framework that is premised on nothing but profits and tongpats, thus the stress on large-scale, foreign mining operations for export.

We believe that we can promote and propagate our People’s Mining Policy with renewed vigor and in an additional arena, the halls of the legislature. Our measure (House Bill 1793) to repeal the Mining Act of 1995 is now pending in the House Committee on Natural Resources. We have realized, though, that it is not enough to call for the repeal of the Mining Act. If we want to up the ante and totally engage government in a policy debate on matter, it is important to come up with a concrete, alternative proposal. This is the importance of fleshing out the People’s Mining Policy into an alternative piece of legislation. We hope KAMP and all tribal organizations will help us in crafting such a bill.

Such a pro-Filipino mining bill is premised on the principle that our national patrimony – our finite mineral resources, our lands, our biodiversity – should be conserved and developed according to our terms and our needs as a people. It should not be exploited just to meet the demands of the free market.

In particular, we hope to take the cue from your sector on the following issues:

1. the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination and ancestral domain;

2. a wider and more democratic free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) process for all communities affected by mining, especially IP Communities;

3. democratic consultations and participation at every stage and level of mining activity in tribal lands;

4. job priority, security, living wages, safe working conditions for mine workers;

5. stringent application of international environmental standards and safeguards;

6. a total mining ban in environmentally-critical areas and conservation priority areas;

7. absolute prohibitions on the dumping of mine wastes and tailings into rivers, lakes and seas.

These are just some of the ideas that we would want to incorporate into the pro-Filipino mining bill. You are in the best position to contribute your ideas on what the indigenous peoples would want to include in the bill we are to draft.

Let me emphasize though that we harbor no illusions that Congress will pass such a bill or change the current situation faced by the indigenous peoples. Our bill will be a political statement, an alternative policy that will show the public what should be done. Its main aim will be to expose the criminal nature of the present policy and the government that implements it and to engage government and the industry in a public debate to highlight the issues and push forward our mass campaigns against large-scale, multinational mining operations.

In other words, this will just be an additional arena for our battle. Our main battle front is still in our communities. Our main weapon is still our mass struggles and campaigns.

We shall await your proposals for inclusion in the pro-Filipino mining bill to be filed by Bayan Muna in Congress.

Thank you and tuloy ang laban ng katutubo at sambayanang Pilipino! #

For reference:

Bayan Muna representative Teddy Casio

Speech at the national indigenous peoples consultation

On the effects of mining plunder and the Alternative Mining Bill

August 11, 2008

St. Theresa’s College, Quezon City

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