On March 3, 1995, the Mining Act of 1995 was enacted by the Philippine government under President Fidel V. Ramos. On this fateful date, the government surrendered the country’s welfare and interest following the demand of foreign investors. Under the law, the government sold out the country’s national patrimony–resources meant for the industrialization of our industries and for the benefit of most Filipinos and its future generations–by legally allowing large foreign corporations to plunder our natural resources. Consequent administrations after Ramos continued the policy of legal pillaging of our resources, and promulgated the Mining Act of 1995 to its fullest. Twenty years and three administrations after, the anti-people and anti-indigenous peoples law ravaged our land, plundered our resources, and violated the rights of our people.
In twenty years, we, the indigenous peoples, became victims and witnesses to legal land-grabbing, to extensive destruction of livelihood and homes, to the blatant banishment of indigenous peoples from their communities, and the violation of our right to self-determination. In two decades, we have defended the lands bequeathed to us by our ancestors, asserting our rights to land and life. Yet the government and its armed forces responded with repression: we became victims of torture, harassment, killings, illegal arrest and detention, and trumped-up charges. All these happen as the government insists to allow large-scale mining operations in our lands.
We suffered the worst blows in the implementation of the Mining Act of 1995. Foreign mining corporations laid sight on our mineral-rich mountains and mining applications surged. Shortly after the passing of the Mining Act of 1995, Financial and Technical Assistance Agreements were granted to Australian mining corporations Climax-Arimco (now known as OceanaGold) and Western Mining Corporation (later changed its name to SMI-Xstrata), and gave full ownership to mining corporations the lands inhabited by Bugkalot, Igorot, Blaan, and Tiboli indigenous groups in the provinces of Nueva Vizcaya, Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato, and Davao del Sur.
Thousands of hectares of lands were showcased by the government in mining roadshows around the world, peddling the tons of minerals in the country left ‘untapped.’ Today, there are 999 approved mining applications covering an estimated 1 million hectares. Billions worth of minerals mined in the Philippines are exported to the USA, Australia, Canada, UK, China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and others. However, the contribution of the multi-billion dollar mining extraction in the Philippines is only obligated to pay 2% in taxes, as provided in the Mining Act of 1995. Infrastructure and technology transfer contributed by large-scale mining to our shores is also miniscule: in twenty years, only 3 smelting plants of nickel, copper, and iron were built, and even these only provide low-level processing of ores. Industrialization from our mineral wealth is far from happening under the Mining Act of 1995.
Present president BS Aquino harps on the virtues of mining liberalization like his predecessors, and placed mining among key development priorities of his economic regime enshrined in Public-Private Partnership Program. Eventually, amid growing sentiment against mining, BS Aquino came out with Executive Order No. 79 (EO 79) in July 2012. Posturing as ‘reforming the mining sector,’ the EO 79 was meant to mollify the growing public sentiment against large-scale mining. However, it effectively strengthened the Mining Act of 1995 and sustained the impunity of mining companies. Inspecting its contents, the deceptive EO 79 only reinforced the ‘one-stop-shop’ for mining applications, thereby accelerating the process for mining operations.
For us indigenous peoples, opening up our lands for mining threatens our survival as a people. Up to 60% or 370,306 hectares of lands from the total 602,012 hectares approved for mining are ancestral lands.
Development from mining remains a hollow promise, and even outright deceitful. In two decades of liberalized mining under the Mining Act of 1995, mining has had miniscule contribution to national development and economy. Key industries remain backward and underdeveloped. The Philippines is in a chronic crisis of unemployment and poverty: a staggering 4.3 million Filipinos are unemployed, and 66% of Filipinos describe themselves as poor. The marginalized and under-serviced indigenous peoples fare no better. Although their lands bring forth bountiful riches, the indigenous peoples remain among the Philippines’ poorest.
According to independent think-tank Ibon Foundation, the contribution of mining to the economy is miniscule, and only largely benefits large-scale mining firms. Ibon notes that among sub-industries, mining and quarrying accounts for the tiny contribution to local economy, amounting only 1% of gross value added (GVA) in 2011. Resulting employment from mining touted by administrations promoting liberalized mining is also miniscule. Philippine Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (Ph-EITI) admits that out of the 33 million Philippine workforce, mining only employs 252,000 or 0.76% of the total workforce.
The benefits of mining argued by mining corporations as compensatory for its immense social costs and environmental destruction is a lie. Mining corporations in collusion with the government paint a rosy picture of mining, insisting on ‘responsible mining’ and ‘there is life in mining’ yet its impacts on the environment and people, especially to us indigenous peoples, tell a different story.
The Mining Act of 1995 is a long-wrought tragedy for us indigenous peoples. It worsens foreign-favored, one-sided, anti-people policy of liberalization of the mining industry. It bridges and aggravates the centuries-old foreign plunder of resources in our lands. The Mining Act of 1995 worsens the oppressions against us.
As our ancestors did, we have valiantly defended our lands from the transgressions, and today we defend our land and life from liberalized mining. However, we found ourselves pitted against government forces as they play protector of large-scale mines. Deployment of military forces where there are large-scale mining interests are massive.
As if the massive deployment of military was not enough, the AFP recruits indigenous peoples to paramilitary groups. Reneging its campaign promise to dissolve paramilitary groups at the aftermath of the Ampatuan massacre, President BS Aquino beefs up the viciousness of its armed forces by allowing the formation of paramilitary groups and use them as pawns in counter-insurgency and as mining security. Under the BS Aquino presidency, 50 indigenous peoples, including 6 indigenous women and 6 indigenous children, were slain by the AFP and paramilitary groups.
The violation of human rights of indigenous peoples worsened as a result of mining and militarization. On October 18, 2012, members of the 26th Infantry Battalion strafed the home of Juvy Capion, a Blaan woman and one of the leaders of the Blaan people’s fight against the mining operations of SMI-Xstrata in their ancestral lands. The attack on their home killed the 8 months-pregnant Juvy, and her two young sons. Kitari Capion, Datu Anting Freay, and 16-year-old Victor Freay adds to the list of Blaan people killed by suspected military forces in the SMI-Xstrata mining site between 2012 and 2013.
Military operations also caused the forced evacuation of communities. Thousands of indigenous peoples repeatedly evacuate in Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Sur, Compostela Valley, and Bukidnon among others.
In tandem with violence, the government uses deception to facilitate the entry of mining outfits in ancestral lands. The connivance of the government and mining corporations is best exemplified by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP.) The NCIP is the lead agency in deceiving, manipulating, bribing and dividing us indigenous peoples.
Instead of upholding IP rights and welfare against business interests, NCIP only negotiated in favor of the latter. The NCIP conducts “consultations” for mining outfits to fulfill the mandated Free Prior Informed Consent of indigenous communities. However, the FPIC process is riddled with issues of corruption, bribery, and coercion; and it has been used to legalize the entry of development projects in ancestral lands. The IPRA neither protects nor defends the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands and self-determination. It is a tool of the State, deceptive and lethal, for plunder and exploitation of indigenous peoples’ lands.
The Mining Act of 1995, aided by the IPRA and strengthened BS Aquino’s very own EO 79 is a deadly combination for the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands and to self-determination.
For us indigenous peoples, the BS Aquino administration brings no respite from environmental destruction, human rights violations, repression, and oppressions similar to past regimes. Its continued implementation of the Mining Act of 1995 is a testament to this fact.
Scrap the Mining Act of 1995! End the liberalization of mining!
Junk EO 79!
Advance a pro-IP, patriotic, pro-environment and responsible Mining Policy! Pass the People’s Mining Bill now!
Stop destructive and large-scale mining in indigenous peoples’ ancestral territories!
Uphold indigenous peoples’ rights to land and self-determination!
Piya Macliing Malayao, spokesperson, 0917-3631576
Lea Fullon, Public Information Officer, 0998-2972500