On the Annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Manila on November 18-19, 2015, the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), along with other environmental groups, will join the Peoples Caravan Against Imperialist Globalization II on November 19 in Manila to highlight the issues of corporate mining by foreign companies in the Cordillera. CPA believes that the APEC Meeting is a perfect time to present to the public the effects of liberalized mining espoused by APEC and to push the peoples demand for a nationalized mining industry.
The Cordillera region is a hotspot of foreign and local mining investments. Data from the Mines and Geo Sciences Bureau reveals that as of 2013, of the 1.8 million hectares approximate land area of the Cordillera, 1.86% or 32, 623.6 hectares is covered by Exploration Permits, Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSAs) and other permits, while 40.89% or 773, 570.46 hectares of land is covered by various applications under process. And among the mining companies seeking applications and operating in the region are foreign mining companies coming from APEC-advanced countries of Australia, Canada, and United States.
Canadian mining companies top the list of foreign mining investors in the region. Among these companies are Columbus; Magellan; Olympus; Solfotara and its subsidiaries such as Adanacex, Canex; Pacific Metals; and Metallum Canada. These applications cover the municipalities of Bokod; Bakun; Kibungan, all from Benguet. In Abra, the municipalities covered by the applications are: Baay-Licuan; Tubo; Bucloc; Boliney; and Daguioman. Calanasan, Apayao is also covered by Canadian mining applications.
Aside from Canadian companies, Australian mining corporations are also in the region such as the Royalco, IndoPhil and Oceana Gold. These applications cover Bakun; Kibungan and Itogon, all from Benguet, and Conner, Apayao. Two US mining companies are also in the region, Phelps Dodge and Freeport McMoran. Their applications cover Balbalan and Lubuagan in Kalinga and Tubo in Abra.
The areas applied for large-scale mining are ancestral lands of Cordillera indigenous peoples (IPs). Based from the experiences and documentation done by grassroots people’s organizations and provincial chapters of CPA, mining companies constantly violate the collective rights of the IPs especially on the Free Prior Informed Consent.
Aside from these violations, the mining industry in the Cordillera speaks of plunder and environmental destruction. Among these environmental disasters are the Philex tailings spill in 2012, massive ground sinking in Colalo in 1999 and Poblacion, Mankayan in 2009 caused by the underground mining by Lepanto, and the most recent Virac sinkhole due to the century of mining operations by Benguet Corporation in Itogon, Benguet.
Globalization has further pushed the mining industry towards a complete sell-out of our national patrimony to foreign corporations. The Philippine government has been subservient to the dictates of foreign mining capitalists such as Canada, US, and Australia to liberalize its mining industry. The Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and succeeding laws and proclamations only favor foreign mining in the country, causing economic dislocation, displacement of communities, environmental destruction, health hazards and violations of indigenous peoples’ collective rights.
Worse, the areas where mining operations are ongoing or are targeted for mining and other projects are deployed with Philippine military troops that result in numerous human rights violations, including harassment, intimidation and political vilification of community leaders and activists; illegal arrests, detention and torture; rape and threat to the security of women and children; extrajudicial killings; and enforced disappearances.
CPA strongly supports the peoples’ demand to nationally industrialize the mining industry as a step forward in developing other important national industries that truly serve the Filipino people. The present set-up of the mining industry only benefits imperialist countries at the expense of indigenous peoples and destruction of the environment.
The APEC should look into an economic cooperation that truly addresses the economic welfare and upliftment primarily of the people. If APEC leaders really prioritize the needs and aspirations of their constituencies, they must not in any way aggravate the plunder of the remaining natural resources through destructive mining and other extractive industries, and uphold peoples’ rights./Santi Mero, Deputy Secretary General/Public Information Commission, Cordillera Peoples Alliance