3,000 expected to join march vs. SMI

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/7 December)—Organizers are expecting at least 3,000 protesters to march from Digos City in Davao del Sur to this city for the third edition of “Lakbayan,” a campaign against the mining operation of foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI).

The 150-kilometer march protest via General Santos City will start tomorrow (Saturday) and will reach this city on Monday, in time for the observance of International Human Rights Day, said Ryan Lariba, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Soccsksargen Region.

This year’s theme is “Lakbayan 3: Lakbayan Para sa Katarungan” (Journey 3: Journey for Justice.”)

Lariba said that Lakbayan 3’s major activity will be a boxing match called “Ang Tunay Na Laban ng Bayan” (true fight of the nation), a match between President Aquino- and Armed Forces of the Philippines-backed Xstrata-SMI vs. people-backed Katawhan (“public-backed” people).

“The three-day protest will put the accent to our demand for swift justice for the Tampakan “massacre” victims,” Lariba said.

He was referring to the October 18 killing of Juvy Capion and her two young sons within the mines development site of Sagittarius Mines, which is backed by Xstrata Copper, the world’s fourth largest copper producer.

It will likewise highlight the human rights abuses allegedly perpetrated by Xstrata-SMI in “collusion” with the Aquino government against innocent civilians, indigenous peoples and environmentalists, Lariba added.

John B. Arnaldo, Sagittarius Mines spokesperson, has repeatedly said they “respect the views” of those against their Tampakan mining project.

Sagittarius Mines’ application for an environmental compliance certificate had been rejected by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, anchored on the open-pit ban issued by the South Cotatabato provincial government. The company has appealed the DENR decision before the Office of the President.

Last month, SMI received it fifth Presidential Mineral Industry Environmental Award, the highest award given to a mining company in the Philippines.

Lakbayan 3 will be staged simultaneously with Manilakbayan ng Mindanao, “a journey of Mindanawons in defense for land, environment and human rights,” where at least 70 delegates from Mindanao traveled to Manila in a 10-day activity to bring to Malacanang the issue of large-scale mining and killings in the island.

Last year’s Lakbayan II was themed “Tuloy ang Laban Batok sa Dinagkung Pagmina ug Pagpanglapas sa Tawhanong Katungod” or “The Fight Continues Against Large-Scale Mining and Human Rights Violations.” Marching from Digos City, protesters also capped their activity here and burned an effigy of President Aquino aboard a backhoe. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)