Aussie troops, mining firms not welcome in Mindanao: group

May. 29, 2007

Southern Philippines a hotspot for foreign war games and giant mining projects

MANILA — The presence of Australian military troops and mining companies in the Philippines, which President Gloria Arroyo is literally begging for in her state visits, will only aggravate the volatile peace and order situation in the country particularly in Mindanao, environmental activists from Kalikasan Peoples Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) warned today.

“Australian troops and giant mining companies are not welcome in the Philippines,” Clemente Bautista, Kalikasan PNE National Coordinator, said.

Arroyo is expected to sign a major defense cooperation agreement with the Australian government as her state visit starts today. The defense pact is expected to make possible joint military training and counter-terrorism exercises between Filipino and Australian troops in Southern Philippines.

She is also expected to meet up with executives of BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining corporation based in Melbourne, and other mining executives from the Australia-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce (ANZCham) during her visit. BHP Billiton is aiming for a multi-million dollar nickel project in Pujada Peninsula, Davao Oriental province in partnership with local mining firms Hallmark Mining Corp. and AustraAsia Link Mining Corp, Bautista noted.

Aussie mining firms flocking to Mindanao

Bautista said that “more Australian mining firms are now flocking south to Mindanao following strong opposition from the local communities to mining projects in Northern Philippines and Luzon”.

“In October 1996, for example, Tinggians in the uplands of Abra said they will not hesitate to declare war on Australian mining firm Newcrest Exploration if it continued with its mining exploration on their ancestral lands. In Cabarruguis in Quirino province in 1996 the Australian Mining Company (ARIMCO) stopped operating after the fatal shooting of its Canadian consultant Colin Spence. Last year, the controversial Lafayette mine spills also drew great opposition and condemnation from the local, national, and international communities,” Bautista said.

“Now, giant mining firms from Australia are eyeing Mindanao as their next playground. This includes BHP Billiton in Pujada Peninsula in Davao Oriental and Claver in Surigao del Norte, Medusa Mining in Eastern Mindanao, Red 5 in Siana in Surigao del Norte, Indophil in South Cotabato, Climax-Arimco in Surigao del Norte,” Bautista enumerated.

War games, mining firms aggravate regional conflicts

Bautista said that the presence of more foreign mining companies and troops in the Philippines would only contribute to social conflicts and regional instability.

“Overseas operations of many Australian mining companies have actually contributed to conflict and instability, human rights violations, and environmental degradation in local communities throughout Indonesia, Papua new Guinea, and the Philippines. Local communities are sure to stand up in arms against these huge mining projects whch threaten their ancestral lands, ecosystems, livelihoods, and ways of life,” Bautista explained.

“Take note that many regions in Mindanao are also biodiversity hotspots and ecologically-rich areas. Mining on such a massive scale in the region will threaten these ecosystems which provide the people with precious resources and foodstuffs,” Bautista said.

With Arroyo’s Australian visit and its expected yield of economic and military deals, Southern Mindanao will become a hotspot for foreign military troops and mining firms, Bautista stressed.

“It is no sheer coincidence that the war games with Australia are planned to be held near the mineral-rich regions coveted by Australian firms such as BHP Billington. These military war games will only contribute to securing their economic interests over the province and suppressing local dissent against the planned mining projects,” Bautista said. ###

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