DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/16 Oct) – A group promoting and supporting indigenous peoples’ rights has called on President Aquino to “stop the cycle of violence” in ancestral domains and rural communities by rescinding his approval of the military proposal for mining firms to fund and organize their own Special Cafgu Armed Auxiliary (SCAA) to secure their operations.
“It is the indigenous peoples and rural communities that are in dire need of protection from violence and attacks, not mining corporations,” the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center said in a statement issued on October 15. “President Aquino’s approval of mining militias violates indigenous peoples right to self determination inside their ancestral domains,” the LRC said.
“We are demanding from President Aquino to make a break in the cycle of violence that has marked government policies and actions in the past. Do not use the rebel attacks against mining operations in Claver as an excuse to again escalate conflict and violence in ancestral domains and rural communities,” it said.
Some 200 guerrillas of the New Peoples Army on October 3 raided the Taganito Mining Corporation (TMC) and its sister companies – the Taganito High-Pressure Acid Leaching (THPAL-Sumitomo) and the Platinum Gold Metal Corporation (PGMC) in Claver, Surigao del Norte, destroying some P3 billion in machinery, equipment and facilities.
They also took hostage several company officials but later released them unharmed.
No one was hurt during the seven-hour raid that came 12 days after the Armed Forces of the Philippines pulled out the 30th Infantry Battalion from the area for retraining.
The statement also noted that indigenous peoples, referred to as Lumads in Mindanao, have “never been plagued with continuous perpetration and threats of violations and violence in the history of their tribes’ existence as they are going through right now with the government’s implementation of the Mining Act of 1995. Their lives and territories have always been under attack due to conflicts caused by mining.”
In 2008, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo created the Investments Defense Force after NPA rebels attacked a gold processing plant in Compostela Valley. “In just a couple of months, heightened military deployment and operations in mineral-rich areas in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental had resulted in the displacement of hundreds of Mansaka, Mandaya and peasant settler families as well as allegations of harassment, physical assault and torture of individuals,” the statement read.
The statement added that members of the CAFGU, SCAA and other militia have a “long history of human rights violations in the Philippines including torture and killings, approving mining militias would be tantamount to formalizing mining related human rights violations.”
It said IP peoples leaders, environmentalists and human rights defenders who have been killed in the course of their struggle against mining including Eliezer Billianes who campaigned against the Tampakan Gold Copper Project who was killed in a public market in South Cotabato in 2009.
“It is also time for government to end facilitating and protecting corporate plunder of the environment at all costs in exchange for a pittance in government revenues. A new Minerals Management Law must be enacted to replace the conflict causing Mining Act of 1995,” it said. (MindaNews)