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«Cultural Impacts of Mining in Indigenous Peoples’ Ancestral Domains in the Philippines Marina Wetzlmaier1 Citation Wetzlmaier, M. (2012). Cultural ...»

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Forum Südostasien / Forum South-East Asia

Cultural Impacts of Mining in Indigenous Peoples’ Ancestral Domains

in the Philippines

Marina Wetzlmaier1

Citation Wetzlmaier, M. (2012). Cultural Impacts of Mining in Indigenous Peoples’ Ancestral Domains in the Philippines. ASEAS - Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies, 5(2), 335-344.

Introduction

According to the Philippines’ largest mining company, Philex Mining Corporation,

“there is life in mining”. In its advertising campaign, the company tells the public that it “values the environment and community” through “responsible mining” (HilomenVelasco, 2011). For indigenous peoples, however, who belong to the most marginalised and vulnerable sectors of society, large-scale mining often leads to the loss of their lands and thus poses a serious threat to their livelihoods. About 60 percent of mining operations in the Philippines take place in ancestral domains2 and often without the consent of the affected communities, which fall victim to displacement and numerous human rights violations, such as arbitrary detention, persecution, killings doi 10.4232/10.ASEAS-5.2-9 of community representatives, demolition of houses, destruction of property, rape, and forced recruitment (Brawner Baguilat, 2011). These abuses occur in an environment of impunity, as perpetrators – state as well as private armed forces – are usually not held responsible.

Mining affects the strong cultural ties of indigenous communities and leads to the loss of their culture and identity (Brawner Baguilat, 2011). The following paper will look at impacts of mining on indigenous communities in two selected areas: Abra Province in northern Luzon and the Tampakan Mining Project in Mindanao in the 1 Marina Wetzlmaier studied International Development at the University of Vienna, Austria and is currently working as Research and Information officer at FoodFirst Information and Action Network (FIAN) Philippines, Quezon City. Contact: marina.wetzlmaier@gmx.at 2 The term “ancestral domain” is defined in the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 and refers to all areas claimed by indigenous peoples in the Philippines based on tradition and heritage. It includes ancestral land, forests, pasture, residential, agricultural land, watersheds, natural resources, as well as traditional hunting grounds, burial grounds, and worship areas (Congress of the Philippines, 1997, Sec. 3a Ancestral Domains).

ASEAS 5(2) south of the Philippines. It will not limit its focus to large-scale mining, but also include small-scale mining. Primary data on the two cases was collected during a study tour3 on mining and human rights in the Philippines, the purpose of which was to gain insight into different challenges connected with mining in the Philippines. Visits to the affected areas were the main component of the tour where open group discussions with community leaders and members took place. Round table discussions with local NGOs and individual interviews with government officials provided additional information. For the following article, the collected primary data was complemented and updated by secondary sources, such as newspaper articles. The selected cases are only two examples of numerous similar experiences in other areas of ancestral domains in the Philippines. They show the divisive effects of mining on communities where positions vary between those who strongly oppose mining and those who hope to benefit from it. The situation raises questions about the future of ancestral domains, including indigenous peoples’ cultural heritage and natural resources.

Mining in the Philippines

The Philippines is said to host one of the world’s biggest deposits of undiscovered minerals, especially of gold and copper (Herrera, 2012). Mineral reserves are estimated at about 7.1 billion tonnes of 13 known metallic and 51 billion tonnes of 29 nonmetallic minerals, many of which are located in areas of rich biodiversity and within ancestral domains of indigenous peoples (Alyansa Tigil Mina [ATM], 2011a, p. 5). With the enactment of the Mining Act of 1995 (Republic Act 7942), the Philippines liberalised its mining policy and opened both public and private lands, including protected areas, to foreign investments (ATM, 2011a, p. 7). For 2012, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) expects USD

2.27 billion of foreign investment in mining (Herrera, 2012).

In addition to the Mining Act, Executive Order 270-A of 2004 promoted mining as a priority industry in the country (Brawner Baguilat, 2011), which, according to NGOs, marked a policy shift from “tolerance” to “aggressive promotion” of large-scale minThe study tour was organised with support of the German-based Philippinenbuero and took place from 24 February to 17 March 2012. Participation was open to individuals from different sectors such as research, journalism, and NGOs.

Marina Wetzlmaier - Cultural Impacts of Mining in Indigenous Peoples’ Ancestral Domains in the Philippines ing. Between 2004 and 2011, 32 mining projects were pipelined and more than 2,000 applications for mining contracts and exploration permits were filed (ATM, 2011b, p. 3).

Despite this “aggressive promotion” of the mining industry, investments stayed below the government’s initial target and the mining industry only accounted for about one percent of the annual GDP (ATM 2011a, p. 18). In June 2012, President Benigno Aquino III signed a long-awaited executive order (E.O. 79) which defines the future direction of the Philippine mining policy. The E.O. 79 aims at increasing revenues from mining to at least 5 percent while it also defined “no-go zones” for mining such as prime agricultural lands, eco-tourism sites, and other protected areas (Cheng, 2012).





Thus, it sought to find a balance for different stakeholders, although not all expectations were met. The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines welcomed the order saying that it would provide a “consistent and stable business environment” attractive for investors (Olchondra, 2012). Environmental groups, however, complained that they were not consulted and the Catholic bishops of the Philippines, who have always spoken out against destructive mining, criticised that the E.O. 79 would serve business interests and launched a signature campaign in support of an alternative mining bill (Cheng, 2012).

Mining in Ancestral Domains

For years, NGOs and supportive politicians have been calling for the revocation of the Mining Act of 1995, which promoted a “private sector-led and foreign market/ investment-driven exploitation of mineral resources”. Instead, they have been pushing for an alternative mining bill in Congress that should regulate companies’ activities and give more attention to environmental conservation and local communities (Arquillas, 2012). For example, Congressman Teddy Baguilat who is one of the main advocates for a new mining bill demands better protection of ancestral domains in accordance with the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997 or Republic Act 8371 (Herrera, 2012). Among others, IPRA obliges the State to recognise, protect, and promote indigenous peoples’ rights to their territories “to preserve and develop their cultures, traditions, and institutions” (Congress of the Philippines, 1997, Chapter I, Sec.2). It further guarantees indigenous peoples rights to self-determination and to

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their ancestral territories, which empowers them to manage and to decide over the use of the natural resources within their lands (Brawner Baguilat, 2011).

For the indigenous peoples, land is life which means more than a mere source of livelihood. The term land is strongly associated with home that refers to a traditional territorial claim and an identity as a community with socio-cultural values closely linked to the environment (“Binodngan Ancestral Domains,” 2011). Environmental protection is therefore crucial to the indigenous peoples’ livelihood and their cultural identity. The Binongan communities in Abra Province, for example, describe their responsibilities in interaction with others and with nature through a web of values with three main angles: (1) self-dignity and respect for others, (2) relation to the environment, and (3) spirits and the supernatural world. Mining interferes with this set of values as it is considered a symbol of the Western culture of consumption that enters into conflict with the indigenous culture of sufficiency and commonness (Community Volunteer Missioners [CVM] member, personal communication, March 4, 2012).

Village leaders or the council of elders act as guardians of values and practices and are in charge of ensuring the “protection of watersheds, water sources, and acceptable uses of forests and resources” (CVM, n.d., p. 2). However, mining has disrupted traditional socio-political systems and thereby weakened the communities’ sense of unity.

Village leaders report that conflicts have been provoked by local government officials who, following their own business interests, assigned an ‘alternative’ council of elders that – in opposition to the traditional leaders – acts in favour of mining (village of Magao, personal communication, February 29, 2012). Having village leaders on their side is crucial for mining operators, as the IPRA requires a Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC)4 of affected communities prior to any extractive activities in ancestral domains (Brawner Baguilat, 2011). Nevertheless, experiences on the local level show that the FPIC is easily bypassed, manipulated, or not well implemented by companies and the government agencies in charge (Bitog, 2011). When it comes to conflicting laws, as in the case of the Mining Act and IPRA, decisions are often made in favour of business interests instead of the affected communities, which then reThe principles of consultation and participation of indigenous peoples are provided in the ILO Convention No.

169 or Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention of 1989. Article 6 states that peoples concerned shall be consulted through appropriate procedures and in “particular through their representative institutions” whenever measures which may affect them are being considered (International Labour Organization [ILO], 1989, Article 6). Furthermore, according to Article 16 “peoples concerned shall not be removed from the lands which they occupy”, unless they gave their “free and informed consent”. The Philippines has not ratified ILO 169, but has integrated some of its standards, such as the FPIC, into national law.

Marina Wetzlmaier - Cultural Impacts of Mining in Indigenous Peoples’ Ancestral Domains in the Philippines sort to their own ways of resistance. In Mindanao, for example, the B’laan’s struggle for the defence of their rights and of their ancestral domains erupted into a violent conflict (Sarmiento, 2012; see also Peliño & Maderazo, 2012b).

Case 1: Struggle Against Large-Scale Mining in Tampakan5, Mindanao “If the company does not leave, we will fight it with arms,” a tribal leader of a B’laan community announced in March 2012 during an area visit (village of Columbio, personal communication, March 10, 2012). Two months later, members of the B’laan finally took up armed resistance against the two companies Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) and Xstrata to defend their ancestral domains (Sarmiento, 2012). Swiss-based Xstrata is the world’s fourth largest copper mining company and main stakeholder of SMI, which operates the USD 5.9 billions Tampakan Mining Project – the biggest foreign investment in the Philippines (ATM, 2011a, p. 25). 28,000 hectares of land are targeted for the extraction of gold and copper, affecting the four provinces of South Cotabato, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat, and Davao del Sur. SMI has already conducted explorations of the tenement and plans to start extractive activities by 2016. If this plan pushes through, about 2,600 families or 4,000 individuals, most of them B’laans, would have to relocate (Peliño & Maderazo, 2012b).

On 9 January 2012, however, the DENR ordered SMI to stop all operations in the area because the company did not meet the requirements for an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC), which is one of the prerequisites for large-scale mining. One reason for the denial of the ECC is an open-pit mining6 ban in South Cotabato imposed by the provincial government in 2010. Despite that, the company has retained its presence in the area arguing that the ECC denial would only prevent construction-related but not “consultation-related” activities (Sarmiento, 2012).

Community leaders and NGOs have questioned the legality of SMI’s activities since the application process. As the affected area has been declared an ancestral domain by the local community, an FPIC is required prior to any mining operation. Some B’laan communities, however, have not been consulted at all, while in other cases the 5 The mining operation is known as Tampakan Project, because the main site is located in the town of Tampakan, South Cotabato.

6 Experiences from other case studies show that large-scale mining causes irreparable environmental damage.

Especially open-pit mining comes with long-term negative impacts as it produces more quantities of waste than any other form of extractive activity. During the process, heavy equipment is required to excavate the pit and to remove large quantities of rock. In a next step, cyanide and other toxic chemicals are used to extract the gold from the stone. Remaining waste materials, or tailings, are then often discarded into the environment (Miranda, Blanco-Uribe, Hernández, Ochoa, & Yerena, 1998, pp. 21-22).

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consultations were only conducted with selected village leaders who were offered incentives by the mining company (Marbel, personal communication during group discussion, March 8, 2012). In general, promises of material benefits such as seedlings and capital, of job opportunities, and development projects in these poverty-stricken remote areas convinced B’laan members to sacrifice their land to the mining company (Sarmiento, 2012; village of Columbio, personal communication, March 10, 2012).



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