Brawner Baguilat, Teddy Jr.
Representative Ifugao, Lone District
Mining And Its Impacts To Indigenous Communities
Seventeen million indigenous peoples (IPs) from more than 110 ethno-linguistic groups in the country comprise 15-17 percent of our 100-million estimate population. Up to present, there are still no accurate data on the population of indigenous peoples in the country due to lack of disaggregated data on indigenous peoples in formal censuses.
Indigenous peoples in the country are characterized by their close attachment to their land. They live in different ethnographic areas, and different groups vary in social cultural, political and linguistic features. The history of their resistance against development aggression is rooted to their defense of their lands, territories and resources.
Up to present, indigenous peoples remain to be part of the most discriminated and marginalized sectors of the society. Due to development aggression (i.e. dam construction, logging, mining activities), they were subjected to exclusions, loss of ancestral lands, displacement, and loss of identity and culture.
The passage of Republic Act No 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA) is a milestone legislation as it embodies the collective rights of indigenous peoples which includes their right to self determination and to their lands, territories and resources. It also recognized their right to manage their ancestral domain and define their Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plan (ADSDPP) that will allow them to manage and utilize the natural resources within their traditional territories. As owners and stewards of ancestral lands since time immemorial, indigenous cultural communities were also empowered by IPRA to allow or reject activities in their territories by the giving or withholding of consent to projects through the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) requirement.
The adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2007 by the General Assembly adds to the milestones on the recognition and respect of the rights of indigenous peoples. The Philippines is one of the initial 144 States who voted in favour for the adoption of this Declaration.
However, even with the IPRA and the UNDRIP, indigenous peoples up to present continue to fight for their right to their lands, territories and resources and the implementation of policies protecting the rights of indigenous peoples in the country is quite weak. Conflicting laws and policies and the priority economic development strategy of the government are among the many hindrances to the full enjoyment of the indigenous peoples of their rights due them.
The liberalization of the mining industry led to the increased displacement of indigenous communities and various human rights violations against indigenous peoples which includes the manipulation of the requirement for Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) in favor of mining companies. Resistance from indigenous peoples against mining and other destructive projects were countered with militarization, harassment and threats.
In 2002, Rodolfo Stavenhagen, United Nations special rapporteur for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples visited the Philippines and reported:
“Of particular concern are the long-term devastating effects of mining operations on the livelihood of indigenous peoples and their environment. These activities are often carried out without their prior, free and informed consent, as the law stipulates. Communities resist development projects that destroy their traditional economy, community structures and cultural values, a process described as ―development aggression. Indigenous resistance and protest are frequently countered by military force involving numerous human rights abuses, such as arbitrary detention, persecution, killings of community representatives, coercion, torture, demolition of houses, destruction of property, rape, and forced recruitment by the armed forces, the police or the so-called paramilitaries.”
The Committee on National Cultural Communities of the 15th Congress is one of the very active committees in the lower house and has been conducting congressional and on site hearings on alleged violations against the rights of indigenous peoples in the country. Majority of the complaints received by the committee are on the manipulation or flawed implementation of the requirement for the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of indigenous communities in favor of mining applications affecting the said communities. In almost all the cases handled by the committee on mining, there is a general observation that the entry of mining in indigenous territories had adversely impacted not only the natural resources that had been traditionally managed by indigenous peoples in the area but had also affected their strong communal ties. Bribery and cooptation of tribal leaders and creation of a council of leaders not recognized by the community to counter the leaders of the community who are against the project are just some of the methods employed to push mining projects in the ancestral domains of indigenous peoples.
In indigenous communities, the mining operations resulted in the following:
• Loss of ownership, control & management of land & resources (the material base of the peoples‘ identity, culture and survival), and denial of the peoples‘ resource management systems
• Massive loss of livelihood & destruction of local economies causing threats to food security
• Dislocation of settlements, villages and weakening of socio-cultural systems
• Destruction of bio-diversity, pollution, and degradation of the environment
• Loss of traditional knowledge & systems of resource management
A concrete example of the above mentioned violations to the collective rights of indigenous peoples is the long running operations of the Lepanto Mining Company in the province of Benguet that had caused massive environmental destruction in the area and numerous violations to the civil and political rights and collective rights of the affected indigenous peoples.
Mining likewise violates the right to self determination, manifested in:
• Manipulations of the right to Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC)
• Disruption of culture and socio-political systems including weakening of unity & mutual cooperation
The entry of mining projects in indigenous communities has not only been causing environmental destruction but also numerous human rights violations. Militarization, threats, harassments and extrajudicial killings are just some of the many violations documented. Again in the 2003 report of Prof. Rodolfo Stavenhagen he pointed the direct link of between militarization and destructive projects: Indigenous resistance and protest are frequently countered by military force involving numerous human rights abuses, such as arbitrary detention, persecution, killings of community representatives, coercion, torture, demolition of houses, destruction of property, rape, and forced recruitment by the armed forces, the police or the so-called paramilitaries, such as Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGUs).
Call for Action: To the Aquino Cabinet and members of the Congress
1. Include the following in the No Go Zones to any mining operations:
a. Sacred grounds and burial sites of indigenous communities
b. Areas inhabited and utilized by indigenous peoples for their subsistence
c. Communal forests of indigenous communities
d. Watershed areas
e. Identified international and local heritage sites
f. Indigenous communities with existing boundary disputes so as not to aggravate the conflict
2. Ensure that the provisions of the IPRA are upheld. In particular, the requirement for the acquisition of Free Prior and Informed Consent of affected communities should be observed by all government agencies and business entities. The sincere implementation of the new FPIC guideline which is currently being drafted jointly by the NCC Committee and NCIP should also be ensured.
3. Passage of a new mining law that would ensure conservation and optimal utilization of mineral resources and respects and protects the rights of the people should be part of the priority measure of the current administration. The deliberation of the three mining bills – Minerals Management Bill, Peoples Mining Bill, and the Alternative Mining Bill – should already be started in the lower house.
4. There should be recognition of the flaws of the current policy on mining, not just the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, but also Executive Order 270-A of 2004 that revitalizes and promotes mining as a priority industry in the country. These policies should be revoked and repealed, such that adoption of a more rational development is done.
5. Conduct of a thorough investigation on the human rights violations committed in relation to mining. Those found guilty should be held accountable.
6. Issuance of an executive order calling for the moratorium on mining while the review of mining policies and the investigation on the many issues surrounding the mining industry are being conducted.