MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/05 October) – Aside from being used by government as an issue against the National Democratic Front, the attack on Monday by the New People’s Army against three mining firms in Claver, Surigao del Norte has once more highlighted the need to rethink the nature of the country’s mining industry. Unfortunately, government has refused to think out of the proverbial box, treating the simultaneous raids as simply a police or military matter. It chooses to keep a blind eye to the fact that the NDF is just one of the groups that are opposing the operations of large-scale mining companies.
Let the generals who bungled their job suffer the consequence of what was clearly a failure of intelligence on their part. Indeed, judging from the scale of the attack – some 200 New People’s Army rebels attacking in one fell swoop three targets – it’s unthinkable for the military or the police not to get wind of it. On a positive note, however, the humiliating debacle gives the impression that those huge intelligence funds may not have been used in an intelligent manner.
But since the rebels themselves have linked the issue to questions concerning the environment and protection of the national patrimony, government should wear new lenses and examine the points they have raised. It would not help if government ignores these arguments and simply acts as a mere security officer for the mining companies, a response that will only increase the militarization of the communities [surrounding the firms] and the attendant climate of fear.
In a statement released today, NDF peace panel chair Luis Jalandoni cited that the Tribal Coalition of Mindanao and other groups had filed on May 30, 2011 a petition for a writ of Kalikasan before the Supreme Court calling for a Temporary Environmental Protection Order against five mining firms, including two of those attacked by the NPA, Taganito Mining Corp. and Platinum Group Metals Corp.
Quoting from the petition, Jalandoni said the respondents were charged with “destroying and polluting the ancestral domain” of the petitioners “by failing to provide proper siltation dams for their nickel mines, thereby irreversibly damaging marine resources, mangroves, corals and created serious health risks to the prejudice of the lives, health and properties of the tribes and inhabitants of the Provinces of Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur.”
Government should note that the rebel group has cited concrete issues confronting the mining industry, issues that it has always tried to sideline by playing up the supposed economic benefits of allowing the unbridled exploitation of the country’s mineral wealth.
Incidentally, I’m not alone in the position that government should admit that the destruction wrought by large mining companies was behind the NPA attack on Monday against the three firms in Claver.
“The Aquino regime and the pro-mining lobby are trying to play down if not cover up the reality of destructive large-scale mining highlighted by the Surigao del Norte mine raids,” Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE said in a statement today.
“Environmental degradation, dislocation of communities – let us also not forget mining’s disrespect of the indigenous peoples’ ancestral domain as circumscribed in the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act and National Integrated Protected Areas System Act. Without free, prior and informed consent, and imposed with unfair economic sharing terms, corporations should not wonder why they are met with people’s resistance,” Bautista added.
These are the issues that continue to provide environment groups – and the NPA – with political ammunition against mining. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)