Recipe for resource conflict boiling in Mindanao

Jun. 29, 2014

DAVAO CITY – The environment month of June is marred by a dispersal of 300 farmers barricading a multinational mining firm in the town of Maco, Compostela Valley.

The incident occurred on June 27 as farmers and small-scale miners under the group Indug Kauwatan (People Stand Up) barricading the gates of Apex Mining were dispersed, and two members arrested, by private security and state forces.

Indug Kauwatan wanted the company to stop its open-pit mining operations and to comply with their agreement for an indemnification after huge flooding, aggravated by the firm’s mining operations, destroyed their crops during Typhoon Pablo last December 2012.

In a forum last June 23 by the Alternative Law Groups, coordinator Atty. Marlon Manuel noted that the Mindanao island has a complete recipe for human rights violations as communities come into conflict with companies wresting control of resources such as minerals, water, forests and food.

Manuel’s observation has been sounded off two years ago by the human rights consortium Barug Katungod (Stand for Human Rights) Mindanao which documented 32 cases of extra-judicial killings of environment advocates  from June 2010 to October 2012.

The indigenous people’s alliance Kalumaran, led by secretary general Dulphing Ogan, noted that many of their leaders in the communities have been killed while defending their ancestral territories from mining or agri-business expansions.

These include 24 indigenous leaders such as Juvy Capion, a Blaan leader and wife of anti-SMI Mining Daguil Capion in the boundary of Tampakan, South Cotabato and Kiblawan, Davao del Sur; Matigsalog chieftain Jimmy Liguyon who was killed by paramilitary in San Fernando, Bukidnon for refusing to accede their ancestral land to a mining application; Higaonon leader Gilbert Paborada who opposed oil palm expansion in Opol, Misamis Oriental.

Kalumaran held fact-finding missions on the cases of Capion and Liguyon where they urged government agencies to prosecute the suspects including a military official working with SMI implicated in Capion’s case and to dismantle, capture and prosecute paramilitary groups whose leader admitted to killing Liguyon.

But Ogan said the biggest cause of their loss is the Aquino administration’s continuing push for mining liberalization coupled by an internal security policy that threatens communities.

Barug Katungod in its 2012 human rights report noted that Mindanao’s estimated value of mineral wealth is at  $ 312.6 billion, as the island has the largest reserves of copper at five billion tons, gold (3.4B tons), iron (411 M tons) and aluminum (292 M tons).

Major mining investments include the Tampakan gold project owned by SMI with Xstrata-Glencore, Apex Mines in Maco, St. Augustine gold and copper project in Pantukan, Compostela Valley, and Canatuan gold in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte owned by Toronto Ventures Inc.

“It is also no wonder that as the Aquino government is feverishly campaigning for public-private partnership in all fields of industry, so are the attacks on those who defend and thrive on ancestral domains, farmlands, and sources of livelihood likewise going on a fever pitch,” the report said.

Barug’s report revealed that Aquino and the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ push for “peace and development” is a cover for the agenda of Oplan Bayanihan ” which has been unleashed to facilitate unhampered plunder of what remains of our national patrimony.”

The latest of these conflicts, such as the evacuation of Talaingod Manobos in Davao del Norte, was suspected to be a clearing operation to explore the vast Pantaron Range which is one of the remaining bio-diversity areas in the country.

Barug Katungod calls for government policy makers to review the internal peace and security plan Oplan Bayanihan, as well as holding state security forces accountable for human rights violations.

They also urged for investigations on multinational mining and agribusiness companies on their business, human rights, and environment records, and to file cases for indemnification on damages if found guilty.

They also urged the repeal of various laws that allow foreign mining and agribusiness and put effect laws and programs to protect resources for the benefit of national industries and agriculture.(

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