DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Lumad groups and environmental advocates expressed opposition to the looming plunder of mining and logging interests in the mineral-rich Pantaron Range in Mindanao, as well as the attacks against environmental defenders, as they staged a protest action in Davao City during the Earth Day commemoration on Monday, April 22.
The Pantaron range, which straddles across the provinces of Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental, Agusan del Norte, and Agusan del Sur, is home to endemic flora and fauna. It is also the main source of three major watersheds in the region: the Davao River, Talomo River, and Liboganon River.
The PASAKA Confederation of Lumad Organizations bared at least three mining tenements that were approved by the government, which papers are currently on the process in the province of Davao del Norte, to extract minerals such as gold, silver, copper, and other minerals that will cover around 17,000 hectares.
These companies include the Penson Mining Corp., Lianju Mining Corp., and the Philippine Meng Di Mining & Development Corp.
PASAKA added that two more companies are eager to operate in the area but their papers are currently on appeal when denied by authorities. These mining firms include the Metalores Consolidated, Inc., and the One Compostela Valley Minerals Inc.
Jong Monzon, PASAKA secretary-general also lamented the intensified military operations in lumad areas that greatly affected their communities and the residents who are defending their ancestral domains.
“Relentless militarization pesters our communities, along with the series of aerial bombardments, forced closure of our schools and killings of the defenders of Pantaron,” Monzon said.
The killing of 43 environmental advocates is among the gruesome aftermath of the continued military operations and crackdowns in Southern Mindanao Region, Monzon added, all have taken place under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Monzon cited the case of the death of Manobo leader Datu Kaylo Bontulan of Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanogon.
Intensified aerial bombardments killed Datu Kaylo last April 7 in Kitaotao, Bukidnon while attending to the needs of Manobos displaced by militarization in the area.
Aside from displacements, other forms of human rights violations were also committed during the conduct of military activities that victimize most the lumad communities and residents in the region.
Monzon blamed the continuing imposition of martial law in Mindanao that worsened the cases of human rights violations, viewed as the state’s means to silence its critics and the lumad and peasant communities that continue to oppose the destruction of the environment.
“The state is now desperate to have these big corporations realize their interests into our ancestral lands and communities,” Monzon pointed out.
Meanwhile, Monzon said that justice remains elusive to the families and support groups of the victims of killings and attacks against environmental defenders, even under the present administration of Duterte.
While efforts were exerted to lobby these cases into different government agencies such as the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Commission of Human Rights (CHR), but Monzon lamented that the process was “too slow and complicated.”
“Apparently, the government is slow in resolving these cases but quick in filing trumped-up charges against human rights and environmental defenders and in arresting them,” Monzon said. (davaotoday.com)