Mining Free-Zone Bills rekindles hope for mining-affected communities
“Please understand that in our own little world, everything is interconnected. The mountains, the trees, the waters, the land, the air we breathe, and even the minerals underneath the grounds. If one of these elements will disappear or will be changed, everything else changes. Thus, however way we look at it, mining will only bring destruction to us”, caps the short presentation of Mr. William Tudcor who spoke in behalf of the Kankana-ey tribe of Kibungan, Benguet during the Natural Resources Committee hearing at the House of Representatives in support of House Bill (HB) 4387 which seeks to declare Kibungan, Benguet as a mining-free zone.
“While this is not yet the end of our struggle, we celebrate this victory. This gives hope to the people of Kibungan who have struggled for more than 80 years opposing attempts of mining companies to operate in the area. We have witnessed parts of the struggles and we can’t help but give a sigh of relief that something is happening,” stated Ms. Rosella Bahni, Executive Director of Igorota Foundation (IFI) and cluster point person of the Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. (PMPI) Northern Luzon Cluster. IFI has been directly working and supporting the communities in Kibungan.
Authored by Benguet Representative Ronald Cosalan, the said bill passed the third reading in the House of Representatives but failed to pass in the Senate before the 16th Congress adjourned.
“This is good news! Our partner community in Macambol will be delighted with this development”, stated Mr. Edgar Diares, Executive Director of Amaya Lay – Mindanao, a member of PMPI Davao Region Cluster that directly works with MMSAID in Macambol, Mati. He was referring to the approval of HB 5086 which also seeks to legislate into law Davao Oriental as a mining-free zone. The bill was authored by Davao Oriental 2nd District Representative Joey Mayo Z. Almario.
“While the ECC of Austal-asia Link Mining Company is suspended, having a law that prohibits mining in our land will give us peace of mind. We hope that this bill will be passed into law in this Congress,” reacted Primo Solis, President of the Macambol Multi-Sectoral Association for Integral Development (MMSAID) upon hearing the news on the committee’s approval of HB 5086. MMSAID which is composed of various sectors was organized to protect the environment from destruction especially in Macambol, Mati City.
Last July 13, 2017, PMPI Davao Region Cluster visited Macambol, Mati in solidarity with the communities affected by the mining operations. During the said visit, the community shared their struggles and sought support from the group. PMPI currently supports and works with the community of Macambol through its member-partner Amaya Lay – Mindanao.
Ms. Yolanda Esguerra, PMPI National Coordinator who was also present during the approval of both bills commented that, “This is indeed a step forward for the community of Kibungan and Macambol. The determination of the community to fight the onslaught of mining corporations on the people and environment, is the most effective action to stop the greedy corporations from destroying their ancestral homes and their culture. Support from CSO’s can only be relevant and fruitful when communities have the resolved to protect their lands and rights.”
She further calls on President Duterte to make true his rhetoric against mining. “Davao Oriental is his home and it is in the interest of the Davaoenos that the NO-GO-ZONE Bill in Davao Oriental is passed. Likewise, a new Executive Order from the President strengthening the NO-GO Zones for Mining provisions in EO 79 to cover small island ecosystems, prime agricultural lands, watersheds, and protected areas, can make the fight of the indigenous peoples and local residents of communities a little more bearable against their battles with greedy corporations. From our experience, laws are good but how these huge corporations undermine and use the laws for their self-interest and against the people is also very real.”
“The mining companies have huge and well-oiled machineries. The communities will need the support of many stakeholders to push the passage of these bills. Thus, we will also work with and challenge the respective churches of Davao Oriental and Benguet to support their flock in this struggle. The stance of the church has always been for the protection of environment and the marginalized groups. We hope they can step-up efforts to support not only these two bills, but all the other environmental bills now pending in both houses,” Esguerra said.
The Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI) promotes environmental protection by supporting its partner communities through its anti-mining campaign. PMPI also supports the legislation of mining-free zones, and seeks reform in the country’s mining regime through the passage of Alternative Minerals Management Bill (AMMB).