Thursday, October 13, 2011

Human rights violations feared in Philippine mining sites

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 13, 2011) – A Filipina lawmaker criticized President Benigno Aquino for allowing mining firms to employ armed militias as security forces.

Aquino allowed mining firms to organize militia groups following this month’s simultaneous raids by communist rebels on three mining firms in Mindanao.

“President Aquino’s move to allow mining firms to organize, hire and fund militias will lead to more human rights violations, the killing of indigenous peoples and environmental activists and the displacement of tens of thousands in mining communities all over the country,” Congresswoman Luz Ilagan said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.

Ilagan, citing reports made by human rights groups Karapatan and Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, said militias had been involved in many abuses against civilians and tribesmen who opposed mining activities on ancestral domain areas.

She said at least 2 environmental activists opposed to mining activities had disappeared under the Arroyo administration. And within the same period, at least 35 environmental activists were murdered and two others escape assassinations.

Ilagan said there are 7 environmental activists murdered under the Aquino administration and among them were world-renowned botanist Leonard Co and Palawan broadcaster and anti-mining activist Dr. Gerry Ortega.

“Displacement, harassment and killings and all these for the destruction of ancestral lands and this has been the experience of many Lumad communities in Mindanao and even in other regions when indigenous groups oppose the operations of big mining firms all over the country,” she said.

She said there were reports of increased military presence and checkpoints around mining areas in the country and these contributed to accusations of many human rights violations.

“We have repeatedly received reports on the increasing military presence and the installation of police and military checkpoints mining-affected areas nationwide, including Lafayette in Rapu-Rapu Island, Albay, Filminera in Masbate Island, Marcopper in Marinduque Island, TVI in Zamboanga del Norte, NMRDC in Mt. Diwalwal, Rio Tuba in Palawan, Crew Minerals in Mindoro Oriental, Climax Arimco/Oxiana in Nueva Vizcaya, Abra, Batangas, and Zambales,” Ilagan said.

“It is very alarming that the Aquino government opts to collude with mining firms and multinationals in implementing a military solution in order to continue operations and pursue profits at the expense our communities. I call on the Aquino government to abandon this militarist solution and instead, conduct genuine and meaningful consultations in communities, address legitimate demands and implement policies towards preserving our environment,” she added. (Mindanao Examiner)

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