‘Manilakbayan’ starts journey to bring out human rights, environment struggles in Mindanao

DAVAO CITY(MindaNews/ 1 December)—Some 60 participants of “Manilakbayan in Mindanao” (Journey from Mindanao to Manila) left here on Friday with a tribal ritual staged  by human rights and environmental activists.

A tribal dance by members of the Bagobo, Bagobo-Bawa, Ata-Manobo and B’laan tribes, burning of incense and wine offerings to depict their struggles marked the departure activities.

Manilakbayan is “a Mindanao people’s mobilization for the defense of land, the environment and human rights that brings out the voices of concern on mining-affected communities and the attacks on environment defenders.”

Participants will converge in Manila on December 3 to present Karapatan’s 2012 Year-end Human Rights Report the next day.

Dulphing Ogan, Kalumaran secretary general, said Manilakbayan is an initiative to knock on the doors of national government offices such as the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, among others, to take heed of the peoples’ calls.

He noted that the “minimum demand” of indigenous peoples (IP) and environment defenders in Mindanao is a moratorium on mining operations while cases of extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations are being resolved.

Ogan said they will also demand for the repeal of the 1995 Mining Act, including Executive Order 79 or the revised mining policy, and for the enactment of the People’s Mining Bill.

At the Fifth Mindanao Human Rights Summit here last Thursday, the Panalipdan Mindanao, Kalumaran, Barug Katungod Mindanao and Karapatan-Mindanao chapter released a November 2012 joint report entitled “From Ampatuan to Arakan, to Tampakan: Continuing Impunity in Mindanao, A Human Rights Situationer and Call for Justice.”

The government’s “fervent push for mining investments and other commercial and extractive ventures in Mindanao” has led to the rise of extrajudicial killings and other forms of human rights violations against the people in Mindanao, their joint report stated.

The report said Mindanao has more than half of the mineral resources of the Philippines, with an estimated value of at least U$312.6 billion.

The largest reserves of copper with five billion metric tons (MT), gold with 3.4 billion MT, aluminum with 292 million MT, and iron with 411 million MT are in Mindanao, it added.

Their report also cited that the island holds 60 percent of the oil and natural gas reserves of the country, which can reportedly yield eight billion barrels.

“It is no surprise that Mindanao hosts some of the world’s biggest extractive industry players [like] BHP Billiton, Xstrata, Anglo-American, Sumitomo, Rio Tinto, Unocal (and) Exxon-Mobile,” the report added.

The groups also claimed that the military’s Oplan Bayanihan project “is the government’s means to protect mining and other extractive and destructive industries.”

They said that “peace and development,” as what the military’s outreach program wants to achieve, means “silencing communities to pave the way for mining and other environmentally plunderous projects and operations.” (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro/MindaNews)