Kalikasan wants mining injustices addressed in peace talks

July 22, 2016

By Kalikasan PNE

Environmental activist group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE) joined various sectors and organizations in the Human Chain for Peace held today in various locations of Metro Manila, raising the issue of mining plunder and the militarization in its affected communities as among the priority agendas in the upcoming peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

“With aspirations for national industrialization an apparent common sentiment between the Duterte administration and the NDFP, we urge both parties to immediately resume the formal peace talks and work together in immediately redressing long-standing mining injustices perpetrated against the Filipino people. The issue of large-scale and foreign mining should be one of the priority agendas in the proposed accelerated peace process’ track discussing social and economic reforms”, said Clemente Bautista, National Coordinator of Kalikasan-PNE.

“A peace based on social justice cannot be achieved unless we acknowledge and hold accountable the destructive impacts and other injustices exacted by foreign and large-scale mining upon the environment, the people, and the economy”, he added.

Kalikasan’s participation in the Human Chain for Peace, held on July 22, was also a contribution to the various activities held across the globe to commemorate the Global Day of Action Against Mega-Mining, an annual internationally coordinated series of actions against large-scale mining on the same date.

Proving ground
“We challenge the NDFP and GPH peace panels to especially penalize in their respective capacities mining firms that are repeated offenders of environmental and human rights laws, a prime example of which is OceanaGold’s Didipio mine in Nueva Vizcaya province”, said Bautista.

The environment group said the Australian-Canadian mining corporation’s controversial mining operation has been scientifically established to have caused massive environmental degradation and pollution. Various fact-finding missions, they furthered, have also documented several extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations related to the project.

“The issue of mining and the particular case of Australian-Canadian owned OceanaGold will be a proving ground for the promise of change and peace by the Duterte administration. For the longest time, the GPH has pursued the full liberalization of the mining industry, while the NDFP has diametrically opposed its promotion of foreign large-scale mining plunder”, Bautista explained.

Under the previous Aquino administration, the national government came out with new policies or reaffirmed existing ones that further promoted foreign plunder such as Executive Order 79 that overrode local government opposition to mining projects, and the militarization of mine-affected areas such as allowing Special CAFGU Auxiliary Action (SCAA) paramilitaries for mining corporations.

On the other hand, the NDFP actively punished large-scale mining operations that have extensive track records adverse to the people and the environment, such as the coordinated attacks by its armed wing, the New People’s Army, on three various mine sites owned by Nickel Asia in Surigao del Norte province in Mindanao back in 2011.

Good start
“The Duterte administration is off to a good start in diverging from the previous Aquino administration’s track record. Environment secretary Gina Lopez has already suspended at least five erring mines in the first few weeks. She recently announced that the DENR is also investigating OceanaGold operation in Nueva Vizcaya and will issue a suspension order once found culpable of violations. The GPH-NDFP peace talks should build on these small but important steps towards ensuring the wise utilization of our mineral and other natural resources by coming up with a mining policy framework hinged on national industrialization, environmental protection, and a progressive social policy in the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) outcome of the peace process,” Bautista noted.

The group threw its support for the proposed fast-track of the peace talks to immediately discuss the CASER as well as the proposed constitutional and political reforms, and joined calls for the release of all political prisoners, as obliged by previous peace talks agreements, to immediately resume the negotiations.#