Church leaders nix mining; push food security

LIBERTAD, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews/14 July)—Participants to an ecumenical forum here on Thursday urged the national government to anchor its development policy on the people and not on big local and foreign corporate interests and to prioritize food sovereignty over minerals extraction.

The forum cum Biblico Theological Reflection (BTR) was dubbed  “Land-Use Conversion, Large-Scale Mining: Development for Whom and to Whom?”

It focused on socio-economic reform agenda and is part of the regional consolidation and education for church leaders on just and lasting peace by the Peace of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), the event’s organizer.

In her presentation, Sr. Stella Matutina, of the Order of St. Benedict, underscored the extrajudicial killings tied to environmental leaders and activists, especially those who have supported the local struggle against large-scale mining encroaching mostly on ancestral domains in Mindanao.

Matutina, also the secretary general of Panalipdan Mindanao, said the killings have “even brazenly included men of the cloth.”

She cited the killings of Fr. Fausto “Pop” Tentorio of the Pontificio Istituto Missioni Estere (Pime) in the hinterlands of Arakan Valley, North Cotabato on October 17, 2011 and Dutch missionary Willem Geertman in front of his office in San Telebastagan Village, San Fernando Pampanga last July 3.

In San Fernando town, Bukidnon province alone, there have been “six lumad leaders killed because of their stand against large-scale mining and encroachment on their ancestral lands, said Datu Jomorito Goaynon, chairperson of Kalumbay, a confederation of indigenous peoples’ organization in the region.

Walay contribution ang mining sa nasud kay one percent ra ang gakakuha sa gobyerno taliwala sa dagkong kadaut sa kinaiyahan, ilabina na sa mga yutang kabilin sa lumad (There is no real contribution of the mining industry to the country because only one percent goes to the government amidst wanton destruction to our environment, especially the ancestral domains of the indigenous people.),” Matutina stressed in her presentation.

For their part, Robenson Batoto of Pangalasag shared their experience on the alleged atrocities of A. Brown, a company that operates a 530-hectare palm oil plantation in the uplands of Opol town, Misamis Oriental, due to land-use conversion.

Pangalasag is an organization of lumads in Barangays Bagocboc and Tingalan in Opol who claimed to have toiled the lands since the early ‘80s.

“Giguba ug gisunog ang among katubhan. Ginaharas kami og mapalibutan na ang among uma sa ilang plantasyon (They—A. Brown—destroyed and razed our sugarcanes. They harass us and our farmlands are in danger of being surrounded by their palm plantation),” Batoto said during the open forum.

A. Brown could not be reached for comments.

PEPP, in partnership with the National Priest Organization of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (NPO-IFI) and Kapatirang Simbahan para sa Bayan sponsored the event that was held on Thursday at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew of IFI here.

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Catholic Bishops’ Council of the Philippines, Ecumenical Bishops’ Forum, Philippine Convention of Evangelical Churches and the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines compose the PEPP. It is by far the largest Christian formation in the Philippines.

PEPP also advocates the resumption of peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. Peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have resumed.

In his synthesis of the forum, Bishop Felixberto Calang of IFI and PEPP national core group member, told the participants not to “limit” their church’s advocacy to “listening to the calls of their faithful” but also to act on these issues.

“The struggle of the people against large-scale mining is very timely as we are facing the inevitable threat of global warming and climate change,” he said.

Dili taman lang sa pagpaminaw (Let’s not just listen) but (we should) also unite our resources and capabilities so that social and economic reforms will genuinely benefit the marginalized sectors of our society. We should unify on issues that affect the realization of just and lasting peace,” said Calang. (Cong B. Corrales/MindaNews)