Seeking to validate the social and environmental conditions in various communities across the Philippines affected by Australian-owned large-scale mines, environmental and rights advocates from the Philippines and Australia have embarked on a fact-finding mission circuiting Bongmal District, South Cotabato and Kasibu Town, Nueva Vizcaya from January 28 to February 03 , 2015.
“We aim not only to inspect the adverse impacts of Australian-owned mining to the environment, economy, society and culture of communities they affect, but to deliver our solidarity to the people’s righteous resistance as well. It has been widely reported how such Australian-backed mining transnational corporations or TNCs such as OceanaGold in Nueva Vizcaya and Glencore-SMI in South Cotabato have been amassing rights violations and other atrocities towards their host communities, and we intend to report details on these atrocities back to our country’s leaders to hold these TNCs accountable,” said Sr. Mary Francis Anover, RSM, spokesperson of Defend Patrimony and national coordinator of RMP.
Led by Australian solidarity groups APDP, Philippines Australia Solidarity Association (PASA), and the International League of Peoples’ Struggle in Australia (ILPS-Australia), the mission was joined by the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE), Defend Patrimony Alliance, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Alyansa ng Nagkakaisang Novo Vizcayano para sa Kalikasan, SOCSKSARGENDS Agenda, and various other national and local environment groups and social movements.
Both OceanaGold and Glencore-SMI have been permitted with Financial or Technical Assistance Agreements or FTAAs for their respective mine projects, which grants the biggest possible project area as well as both fiscal and non-fiscal incentives to mining companies.
In a 2010 Environmental Investigative Mission (EIM) in areas covered by Glencore-SMI’s Tampakan project in South Cotabato, potential serious impacts such as geological instability, watershed ang agriculture pollution and disturbance, losses of livelihood and militarization were identified. A recent EIM held just last year discovered that the Didipio project of OceanaGold has already caused massive siltation and heavy metals pollution in different river systems.
“This PH-Australian fact-finding mission is part of a series of activities which aim to directly support the Filipino people’s struggles to protect their land and livelihood from mining encroachment and pollution. It is high time for the Australian people and the international community at large to hear the plight of indigenous people, peasants, and other marginalized sectors that have been robbed of their livelihood and their voice by these Australian mining TNCs,” explained Sr. Mary Francis Anover, RSM, spokesperson of Defend Patrimony and national coordinator of RMP.
According to the mission organizers, the findings will help guide an International Solidarity and Fact-Finding Mission this coming July, and will serve as basis for lobbying efforts and legislators’ investigations in the Australian Congress later this year.###