DIWALWAL, COMPOSTELA VALLEY PROVINCE—Lumads and other members of Nagkadiwa (Nagkahiusang Katawhan sa Diwalwal), a local peoples’ organization, held an overnight protest rally at the office of the Philippine Mining Development Corporation (PMDC) in light of the looming takeover of large scale mining bidders/corporations in the Mt. Diwata gold rush area.
The protest is expected to be the first in a series to pressure the incoming administration of President-apparent Noynoy Aquino to heed the clamor of Diwalwal folks and small-scale miners to stop the sale of Diwalwal. Nagkadiwa mobilized more than 400 Diwalwal residents for the protest action. Multisectoral groups based in Davao and other areas in Compostela Valley also gave their support.
The bidding of the 729-hectare Mt. Diwata mining site was reportedly reset from June 7 to July 30, a move which Nagkadiwa and the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) believe will not appease the fears of the eventual buy-out of Diwalwal. The buy-out will result in the massive dislocation of the more than 45,000 residents whose family members are mine workers employed by local small-scale to medium-scale mining corporations.
Local residents are alarmed that full-blown large-scale mining operations in Diwalwal will completely siphon off the rich gold mineral resource of the province.
“The abuse of Diwalwal’s natural resources of private companies has long been the source of conflict and tragedy to the residents of Diwalwal,” said Rey Elijorde, Nagkadiwa spokesperson, in the vernacular. “The management of PMDC under the direct control of President (Gloria) Arroyo has not given harmony to Diwalwal’s mining industry,” he said.
Elijorde said Diwalwal’s potential could have been used by the government to give sufficient services to the people. Instead, he said the government neglected Diwalwal and made exuses so the place could be sold to giant corporations owned by foreigners.
Philex and anti-mining woes
The group also pointed out the nuances behind the claim of PMDC that only Filipino-owned corporations are allowed to bid for the 729 parcel, saying that among the bidders, Philex would most likely win the bid.
“Philex, the country’s largest mining company, is definitely controlled by foreign corporations and countries. Philex does the dirty work of drilling and open pit mining only for the minerals to be sold-off to private corporations who gain from the high prices of metal in the international market,” said Francis Morales, acting secretary general of Panalipdan (Protect) Southern Mindanao.
Panalipdan, an environmental rights organization, adds that large scale mining operations in the country is tainted by distrust and wide opposition by the local communities and civil society groups due to the environmental hazards it poses.
Gruesome environmental tragedies resulting from large scale mining operations abound, such as: the Marcoppers’ mine spill in Marinduque (1982), Manila Mining’s cyanide pollution in Suirgao del Norte (1987), Benguet Corp.’s water pollution in King-king Compostela Valley province (1989), Lepanto’s pollution of the Abra River (since 1950’s), Atlas Consolidated Mining’s discharge of acidic water into the Sapangdaku River (1999), and the Masara landslide (2008).
Records show that Philex has its own share of water pollution cases in separate cases in 1990, 1995, and 1992 in its copper mining operations in Benguet.
“What makes mining the most destructive form of economic activity is that by nature it is extractive. Worst, the deregulated local mining industry and the lack of protectionist measures employed by the government gives free reign for mining corporations to extract our wealth without limit, without control, even at the cost our environment and people’s lives” said Morales.
Last year, Governor Arturo Uy of Compostela Valley provine declared Diwalwal a geographically hazardous area and ordered the relocation of the mine workers’ families. However, local groups and environmental groups question why despite the hazards involved, the governor gave clearance for mining activities to continue.
Is there a better option?
Elijorde said since last year, their group together with other environmental groups like Panalipdan Southern Mindanao Region (SMR) and Lumad group Pasaka have been campaigning for the reversal of the sell-out of Diwalwal. In an appeal forwarded to the Supreme Court Environmental Justice forum held in Davao City last year, Panalipdan appealed for the stop of the foreign and large-scale takeover of Diwalwal.
Panalipdan-SMR said the better option is to nationalize Mt. Diwalwal.
“By nationalization we mean the state should take over the control of the industry, regulate and plan its usage. In particular, we should reverse the policy of exporting our minerals. These minerals should instead be used for the needs of the people and not for the benefit of the huge capitalist nations such as the US, China, Canada and Australia with their corporations that have anchored their economic profits and industrial mineral needs on our own resources,” said Morales.
Secretary-general, Panalipdan- SMR
Mobile number: 0939.481.8848