Last week, Environmental groups from the Philippines cautioned against the government sending in larger deployments of police and military to protect mining operations such as the one headed by the Australian mining giant Xstrata in Tampakan, Mindanao. The groups warn that doing so “would give rise to even more conflict and human rights violations against mining-affected communities.”
In a statement, Clemente Bautista Jr., National Coordinator of Kalikasan Peoples’ Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE), said “We’re disappointed that the Environment Secretary favors militarization over peace talks and community consent as a solution to the mining woes in Tampakan. Mining-affected communities, are increasingly vulnerable to human and civil rights violations by state and private armed security forces. Mr. Atienza should not make a practice of encouraging troops to protect mining firms that should not be there in the first place, especially those which lack the consent of the communities to be affected by their operations.”
Indigenous people in Tampakan have been protesting Xstrata’s mine because it will encroach on their Traditional Lands and devastate critical watershed areas. If the military presence increases, Bautista warns, Tampakan in South Cotabato could easily become “the next Surigao del Sur.”
During November and December 2007, a massive and mining-related military operation was held in Surigao Del Sur, forcing the displacement of more than 1,500 Manobo Lumads and 12 Lumad communities.
Further, Bautista says a military build-up is also being “observed in other mining-affected areas nationwide, including Lafayette in Rapu-Rapu island, Albay, Filminera in Masbate island, Marcopper in Marinduque island, TVI in Zamboanga del Norte, NMRDC in Mt. Diwalwal, Rio Tuba in Palawan, Crew Minerals in Mindoro Oriental, Climax Arimco/Oxiana in Nueva Vizcaya, Abra, Batangas, and Zambales.”
In recent years, Mindanaos Indigenous People have been under an incredible amount of development pressure, making the violation of human rights in some regions almost commonplace. On top of that, many Lumad communities find themselves trapped — being divided and exploited by two opposing military forces.
It does not take a rocket scientist to see what will happen If this situation continues to build.
Indigenous Peoples are putting their bodies on the line and it's our responsibility to make sure you know why. That takes time, expertise and resources - and we're up against a constant tide of misinformation and distorted coverage. By supporting IC you're empowering the kind of journalism we need, at the moment we need it most.