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MGB hit for ‘lawyering’ for embattled Aussie mine firm

By Melvin Gascon

Environment and civil society groups on Friday slammed the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) for supposedly coming to the defense of a foreign mining firm and allowed it to resume operations despite the lapse of its 25-year mining license.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said the MGB’s endorsement of the continued operation of OceanaGold Philippines, Inc. at its gold-copper mining site is an “insult” against the people of Nueva Vizcaya, who are calling for its stoppage.

“This dubious endorsement it is being used by the mining company to insult the people of Nueva Vizcaya by continuing their operations,” he said in a statement.

Bayan Muna, as well as environment groups Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment and Alyansa Tigil Mina have questioned the endorsement by the MGB and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for the renewal of OceanaGold’s financial and technical assistance agreement (FTAA), the processing of which was supposedly done surreptitiously.

OceanaGold is seeking to continue its operations at its mine project in Kasibu town in Nueva Vizcaya despite the expiration of its 25-year FTAA on June 20.

Based on the Mining Act of 1995, the FTAA is the mining license that allows foreign companies to exploit the country’s mineral resources.

In a letter to the OceanaGold, MGB director Wilfredo Moncano said the firm may continue to operate pending the approval of its renewed FTAA by President Rodrigo Duterte.

In a special session on June 28, the provincial board of Nueva Vizcaya declared ongoing activities of OceanaGold as illegal after it failed to renew its FTAA. The board also authorized Nueva Vizcaya Gov. Carlos Padilla to take “all necessary steps” to stop the mining firm’s operations.

On June 26, Padilla directed the Philippine National Police and the village governments to set up checkpoints along the roads and block any attempt by the company to ship out its mine production.

In a media statement, OceanaGold said it continues to operate the Didipio mine.

“We are committed to operating in accordance with the law and will always comply with all our responsibilities under our contract with the Philippine government,” the company said.

OceanaGold said it lodged its application for FTAA renewal in March 2018, and received confirmation on June 20 from the MGB that it is allowed to continue operations pending the approval of its renewed FTAA.

But Leon Dulce, Kalikasan PNE national coordinator, dismissed OceanaGold’s claims that it was conducting “responsible mining” in Didipio.

“No amount of greenwashing by OceanaGold can gloss over the fact that rivers are vastly silted, periodically dumped with undeclared chemicals, and depleted by its operations,” he said.

According to Dulce, OceanaGold’s operations are also “chronically exposing” the important biodiversity corridor of Caraballo mountain range to air, noise, and water pollution.

“These are just one of many sins of OceanaGold that should warrant the long-deserved cancellation of this foreign mine’s FTAA contract,” he said.

DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda said that by stopping the mining activities, the local officials of Nueva Vizcaya are within their mandate of implementing the law.

He said he is verifying reports that MGB had allowed OceanaGold to continue its operations despite the lapse of the the FTAA.

“For me, it is rather simple: if one does not have a license, then it should not be allowed to operate,” he said in a phone interview.

Oceana Gold hit for illegal operations

By Melvin Gascon 

Residents and environment activists on Monday denounced Australian firm Oceana Gold Philippines, Inc. for supposedly continuing its mining operations in Kasibu town in Nueva Vizcaya despite the lapse of its license on June 20.

Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) said OceanaGold has been conducting illegal activities since the expiry of its financial and technical assistance agreement (FTAA), prompting the provincial government to alert the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the local environment officers on the company’s operations. “There are plenty of pending reports, complaints, government resolutions, and other documented evidence that OceanaGold violated various environmental, socio-economic, and human rights regulations which should warrant the mine’s stoppage and not its perpetuation,” said Leon Dulce, Kalikasan PNE national coordinator.

Nueva Vizcaya Gov. Carlos Padilla on June 20 issued an advisory to the PNP and its provincial and municipal environment offices and the village council of Didipio to “restrain any operations of OceanaGold upon the termination of the FTAA,” based on the Local Government Code of 1991 and the Environment Code of Nueva Vizcaya.

OceanaGold’s FTAA states that the mining agreement “shall be terminated and the parties shall be relieved of their respective obligations” upon the expiration of the contract.

However, David Way, OceanaGold’s general manager wrote a letter to the Didipio village council citing a June 20 letter from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), citing Administrative Code which states that existing licenses “shall not expire” until the application for renewal has supposedly been finally determined.

In a June 20 press statement, OceanaGold said it has lodged a notice to renew the FTAA in 2018 and has been “working collaboratively with the government of the Philippines on the renewal process.”

Dulce said the MGB and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) cannot invoke the Administrative Code since they were remiss in their duties to consult host communities.

“They endorsed Oceanagold’s FTAA renewal application to the Office of the President instead of cancelling it outright,” he said, citing the resolutions of rejection by the provincial and village councils.

Kalikasan PNE urged the MGB and DENR to withdraw their endorsement of Oceanagold’s FTAA to the Office of the President. “In the dialogues we conducted with the MGB and the DENR, these agencies admitted that they failed to put into consideration the body of evidence submitted to them over the past year,” Dulce said.

“With concerns such as the full withdrawal of social acceptability and a lack of environment and human rights due diligence, there is no way a legitimate regulatory body would have let OceanaGold’s license renewal application go any further,” he added. According to Kalikasan PNE, the MGB’s legal opinion allowing OceanaGold to resume operations amid the absence of a mining agreement and the clear opposition of LGUs is “patently wrong and irresponsible.” “It would be hypocritical of the Duterte government to claim that it wants to stop mining for creating a monster in our country, but then allowing a foreign corporation like OceanaGold to operate with impunity,” he said.

The MGB has been lawyering for this foreign mining corporation instead of defending our national patrimony from it. The people of Nueva Vizcaya will definitely take action to halt Oceanagold’s operations and demand indemnification and other just compensations for its various crimes against the people and the environment,” Dulce said. #

8 Aetas killed during quake, IP group reports

Eight Aetas died in the 6.1 magnitude earthquake that shook parts of Luzon last April 22 but have not been included in the government list of casualties, an indigenous people’s group said.

The Central Luzon Aeta Association (CLAA) said at least eight Aetas, including minors, died in landslides in Porac and Floridablanca towns in Pampanga province due to the earthquake.

The group did not name the reported victims.

An April 26 report by CNN Philippines, however, said one child was killed in Barangay Nabuclod in Floridablanca town while three others (8-year old Landok Serrano, his father Berto Serrano and grandfather Bidong Laya) went missing during the quake.

In a press conference in Angeles City this morning, the CLAA complained that the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council did not look into the plight of the Aetas—the indigenous peoples group in Central Luzon.

“[T]he NDRRMC just recorded a total of 18 deaths. Of the reported 18 deaths, five missing person cases, 243 wounded, from the 3,632 affected families or about 7,410 individuals…few or even none of it includes the indigenous people and their communities,” the CLAA in its press statement said.

The CLAA added that the Aetas are the most vulnerable sector in the region and the last to recover from disasters.

The group also bewailed that the Aetas have limited access to state resources, such as quick response and rescue teams when disasters strike.

‘Apathetic president’

In the press conference held at the Angeles City Youth Center, the CLAA expressed fears that more deaths may have occurred but remain unreported, especially in farflung indigenous communities.

The group also blamed president Rodrigo Duterte government for his apparent apathy for dismissing the number of deaths as “the barest minimum.”

“I’m not trying to belittle the problem. To me, it’s just maybe a few towns hard hit. Thank God that we have the barest minimum of deaths,” the President said at a situation briefing in San Fernando City, Pampanga two days after the quake.

CLAA chairperson Sonny Serrano said that the severity of the disaster effect of the earthquake may be linked directly to anti-environment projects “along every inch of the entire length of the Zambales mountain range.”

“In the uplands of Floridablanca for example, exploration and earthmoving activities along the ridges of Mount Cuadrado may have caused the weakened soil of the residents of Brgy. Nabuclod and other hard hit barangays of Floridablanca,” Serrano said.

In Porac, the introduction of alien tree species by the government’s National Greening Program and the existence of many quarry operations as well land conversion to roads and subdivision may have worsened the effects of the Earthquake, he added.

The CLAA also denounced Duterte’s “criminal negligence” in perpetuating more intensive environmental plunder of the entire Zambales mountain range under his government’s Build Build Build program, that may have worsened the effects of the earthquake. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Impunity charge vs China filed at ICC

Former ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales and former foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario filed a complaint against Chinese President Xi Jinping before the International Criminal Court (ICC) to “check impunity” in the disputed South China Sea. Morales said they want to send a clear message to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte administration and to all Filipinos. “We demand accountability from those who destroy marine areas, and we want to check impunity as a deterrent to progress,” she said.

Cartoon by Mark Suva/Kodao

National minority groups hold national assembly

National minority groups from all over the country gathered at the University of the Philippines in Diliman Quezon City last October 26 for the Second National Political Assembly of Sandugo (Movement of Moro and Indigenous People for Self-Determination).

They held a mass action in Mendiola in Manila in the afternoon.

Sandugo called for the ouster of President Rodrigo Duterte as they assailed the widespread human rights violations perpetrated by the state forces.

They cited the martial law in Mindanao that caused Marawi City’s destruction, the escalated number of killings of their leaders and organizers, as well as red-tagging, forced surrenders and illegal arrest.

They also condemned the continuous bombings and militarization of state forces that cause forced evacuation of Lumad and Moro communities.

The groups also scored the intensified plunder of ancestral lands of big foreign agricultural corporations and mining.

According to Sandugo, Duterte is subservient to the policies of imperialist countries such as US and China and surrendered the country for foreign plunder, including ancestral lands of minorities. # (Video and report by Joseph Cuevas and Maricon Montajes)

Would CASER have prevented mining disasters?

SPECIAL REPORT

By Raymund B. Villanueva

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Randy Malayao can only shake his head as he looked at photos of the landslide in Itogon, Benguet last month that reportedly killed 69 residents, majority of whom were miners and their families. Initial reports said the tragedy was brought about by the torrential rains brought about by typhoon “Ompong” that wreaked havoc all over Northern Luzon. Eventually, however, it was accepted that the typhoon only triggered the disaster and that mining activities in the area—both large and small scale—was its main cause.

“It should not have come to this,” Malayao said. “This could have been prevented if only the Manila government listens to the people,” he added.

Since his release from prison as a political detainee in 2012, Malayao has resumed his work as a consultant of the NDFP’s negotiating panel, attending formal negotiations in Europe and reciprocal working group meetings in the Philippines and abroad. As the NDFP’s resource person from Northern Luzon, he is intimate with mining issues in his home region of Cagayan Valley, as well as the Ilocos Region and the Cordilleras. Environmental protection was one of his advocacies that made him a victim of abduction and intense torture in the hands of the Philippine Army. He spent four and a half years inside various jails as a political prisoner.

“The countless discussions I attended on what makes our people poor, especially the peasants, opened my eyes that environmental degradation contributes to their poverty, contrary to what has been promised them for more than a hundred years. Mining activities in Northern Luzon has made its people poorer,” he said.

Rescuers try to clear part of the landslide in Barangay Ucab, Itogo, Benguet that killed 69 residents. (Photo by Kim Quitasol)

The victims of the Itogon landslide are a case in point. Malayao said that mining activities, primarily when mining giant Benguet Corporation was active in the area, caused its forest cover to be denuded and its soil unstable. The landslide last month was only the latest in a string of similar incidents and it is unfair to blame the victims who he suspects are allowed to continue their activities with the consent of the company that still owns the mining licenses in the area.

Northern Luzon is one of the Philippines’ mining hotspots. Gold, copper, and molybdenum are mined in Nueva Vizcaya; gold and nickel are extracted in Isabela; gold has been mined in the Cordilleras for hundreds of years, and gold and magnetite (also known as black sand) are mined in the Ilocos Region and Cagayan Province’s coastal and offshore areas. As a mountainous area, the regions are also a prime source of sand and gravel as well as lumber. But despite the nearing depletion of its mineral wealth, it is agriculture that keeps the regions’ economy afloat. While it has enriched a few corporations beyond belief, mining has only kept many of its residents in poverty. Not a few have lost in their lives.

It was because of this situation that the NDFP has pushed for environmental protection, rehabilitation and compensation as one of the top agenda under the substantive issue of social and economic reforms of the peace negotiations between itself and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

CASER and the environment

It was as far back as September 1, 1992 that both the GRP and the NDFP agreed in the document called The Hague Joint Declaration to discuss social and economic reforms to address “the root causes of armed conflict.” Both parties agreed that a Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) is a program that could end poverty and other social. It was only recently, however, that a section on environmental protection was finally approved, even if the issue had always been on the table for more than 26 years already.

“[NDFP’s] latest version of [its draft] CASER is the result of careful study and analysis started in the middle of 2016. The NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms (RWC-SER) looked at the relevant experience and practice of the revolutionary forces in the cities and, especially, the countryside,” the NDFP said in the preface of its book on the peace talks agenda.

As expected, the NDFP had been scathing in its assessment of the state of environment in the

Philippines, especially mining.

“Corporate mining depletes our minerals as well as destroys forests and mountains. National minorities are displaced from their communities and ancestral lands. Critical resources for national industrialization are lost,” the NDFP said. “The profit-driven nature of capitalist production with the particular neo-colonial pattern of production and trade, that overrides social and ecological considerations has been the main factor in the devastation of the Philippine environment and the consequent disasters that have plagued the country,” the NDFP explained.

It may come as a surprise to most, however, that under its CASER proposal, the NDFP is not against mining. Rather, the NDFP says it is for responsible and pro-people mining.

NDFP urges environmental protection with economic development

For the NDFP, mining is not evil. It only becomes so because the environment is being destroyed by current mining practices and it only benefits members of the local ruling elite and foreign economic interests.

The NDFP said that environmental protection, conservation and the wise use of natural resources are necessary components of socio-economic development policies and that ecological balance is integral to national development.

By this, it means two things.

First, current destructive mining practices must be stopped and replaced with more environment-responsive ways. Not a few were amazed when the NDFP expressed full support to former GRP environment secretary Gina Lopez when she ordered the ban on open pit mining and a review of all mining activities nationwide. In turn, Lopez said she was willing to work with the revolutionary New People’s Army (NPA) in protecting the environment. This prompted the NDFP invite Lopez to attend the NDFP-GRP formal peace negotiations in Europe to present her views the Left said were in accordance with its programs on the environment.

“The desire of Gina Lopez to work with the NPA for peace and development is welcome by the NDFP.  It is directly related to the environment, agrarian reform and rural development now being negotiated under the substantive item Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms,” NDFP chief political consultant Sison said. “It will be fine if Gina attends the fifth round of formal talks,” Sison added.

Lopez told Kodao she would accept the invitation provided she would be confirmed by the powerful Commission on Appointments. “Yes, I’ll go,” Lopez said. “What I would want to do is to create models first than just talking.  What I would like to do is to work with the NPA and create models where we get people out of poverty in like six months to a year.  Then I’ll go talk to him (Sison): ‘Sir, look at what we did here. What if we do these everywhere?’” Lopez explained.

Lopez was eventually rejected by the CA and Duterte decided to not reappoint her controversial environment secretary.

Second, the NDFP wanted that upon signing of the CASER, most of the raw materials from the country’s mining activities would stay in the country to be used for its national industrialization drive. “The strategy of export-led economic growth has opened the country’s natural resource to control and plunder by the foreign monopoly capitalists, big comprador bourgeoisie and bureaucrat capitalists. As the imperialists and the local exploiting classes freely siphon off the nation’s natural wealth, they leave behind a ravaged environment, Industrial wastes like mine tailings and carbon monoxide emissions and unsafe agricultural products pollute and destroy the environment,” the NDFP said.

The group added that existing laws such as the Mining Act of 1995 mean the wholesale delivery of the national patrimony to the unbridled exploitation by foreign investors through the liberalization of the mining industry. They open the door wider to the destruction of the environment and the displacement of the national and ethnic minorities from their ancestral lands.

Under Section 2 of NDFP CASER’s principles of environment protection and economic development, the group proposes that the parties “…commit to pursue economic development with due regard to the protection and efficient use of the country’s renewable and non-renewable resources and to institute measures for ensuring a healthy national environment.”

GRP panel’s ‘surprising’ draft

It was not only the NDFP that sprung surprises in its environment protection drafts of the CASER. The GRP was not to be outdone when it submitted its own environmental protection, rehabilitation, and compensation draft after the fourth round of formal talks in Noordwijk An Zee in The Netherlands in June 2017.

“The GRP’s draft has many provisions similar to NDFP’s. While there are differences between their drafts and ours, there are enough similar provisions that could be the foundation of a favorable agreement on this issue,” an NDFP source told Kodao.

For example, on the issue of mining, the GRP RWC-SER’s draft said that the pursuit of economic development must integrate protection, efficiency, and just use of the country’s resources and ecology, including making sure that the carrying capacity of the environment is not breached.

Taking a cue from the NDFP draft, the GRP draft, under Section 6 of its draft Priority Actions for Sustainable Development and Environmental Justice, says that all mining operations are to be regulated “to ensure domestic processing of mineral resources, guarantee environmental protection and justice, safeguard mine workers, compensate communities for damages, uphold democratic consultation and the consent of communities, allocate mining revenues and benefits equitably, and charge the costs of mine maintenance, disasters and rehabilitation to the revenues of mining firms.”

Support from environmentalists

Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment national coordinator Leon Dulce hailed both the NDFP and GRP negotiators’ respective drafts as steps towards the protection of the environment and national development.

“What both parties have shown is that, at the very least, they were willing to discuss how mining could be more environment-responsive and beneficial to the Filipino people at the same time,” Dulce said.

Kalikasan said the country may have around 7.1 billion metric tons of metallic mineral reserves (such as gold, copper) and nickel) and 51 billion metric tons of non-metallic deposits. “The total revenue of these reserves may be worth US$1 trillion, ten times the country’s gross domestic product and 14 to 17 times larger than its entire external debt,” the group said.

Like the NDFP and GRP’s drafts on environment protection, Kalikasan seeks a reversal of the nature of the country’s mining industry.

“In forums and symposiums organized and attended by Kalikasan, including congressional hearings on the People’s Mining Bill (House Bill 2715, filed by Bayan Muna) that we are suporting, we have always said that the mining industry should be geared towards national industrialization,” Dulce said.

Kalikasan said that the mining industry should be redefined for the production of raw materials—such as base metals, basic chemicals and petrochemicals needed by the basic, medium and heavy industries—to produce as much consumer, intermediate and capital good with the country’s stock of finite mineral and non-mineral industrial raw materials and in the process provide jobs to the country’s vast human resources.

“In other words, our country should not be exporting everything that is mined within our territory because we need them for when we finally industrialize. And that may be possible if the GRP and the NDFP agree to sign a CASER and honestly implement it,” Dulce said.

The environmental activist also clarified that under both the NDFP and GRP drafts of the CASER as well as HB 2715, that the drafts are not necessarily against foreign mining corporations.

“I think these documents clarified that as long as these foreign mining corporations have no bad records and they agree to contribute to national industrialization, they are welcome,” he said. The People’s Mining Bill says that the State shall in cases allow foreign corporations to invest in the mineral industry.

“Based on the National Industrialization Program and the country’s capability and capacity, the government must identify the mineral areas where foreigners can help and invest subject to rigorous screening and strict regulations…The participation of foreign companies in the critical stages of mineral extraction and processing shall be in accordance with a mandatory program or agreement for technology transfer and equity shares that do not exceed 40 percent of the full capital requirements,” HB 2715 reads.

“Alas, the GRP principal (Duterte) is unwilling to continue the talks,” Dulce bewailed.

Wasted opportunity

Malayao agrees with Dulce that Duterte is wasting the opportunity to have an environmental protection agreement signed with the NDFP.

“I could not begin to describe to you the hard work put into crafting both the NDFP and GRP drafts on environmental protection under the prospective CASER. It was supposed to have been discussed as early as June 2017 by the negotiating panels,” Malayao said.

A signed agreement between the GRP and the NDFP is a binding and legal document, Malayao explained. Even without a final peace agreement, both the GRP and NDFP can already implement its provisions, as they did with their agreement on human rights and international law when they established a joint monitoring office in 2004.

“If the CASER was signed and implemented last year, perhaps extractive activities in Itogon, as well as in Naga City in Cebu Province, could have been more strictly regulated. Perhaps, the near simultaneous tragedies last month would have been averted,” Malayao said. #

 

Boracay

Ni George Tumaob Calaor

 

naghasik ka ng dahas at nilukob ng takot

yaring isla ng aking pangarap at yaong

pangarap

para sa aking mga supling

ay naging bangungot

sa karimlang aninag ay

hindik sa kanilang

kinabukasan.

 

yaong buhanging dati’y napakadalisay kay

pino at puti

buhanging kumakastilyo sa masagana naming

pamumuhay

buhanging sanay tumatawid sa aking mga

mahal tungong biyaya ng buhay

ngayon ay kinuwadrahan mo sa ganid ng

sakim at ginawang bihag ng pasismo

napaligiran ng mga aso mong bayaran—

gwardyadong-gwardyado

na tulad mong garapal na barbaro, kay

yabang pilit na itinataas pulburado mong noo!

 

ngunit huwag ka’t walang kinilalang bakal na

kamao

ang galit na mga alon ng sa mga kakutsaba

mong dayo

buong bangis at tahasan mong ipinagkanulo

 

ibinulong na ng hangin sa karagatan

ang himutok ng bulkan sa dibdib

ng mga inalipusta mo

 

at di maglalaon…

 

delubyo kang ililibing

sa lunod ng kalaliman

nitong paraiso!

 

at laya sa kalawakan, silahis ay ginto!

 

at timawa ng pagkapantay

ay kawalan ng uring lipunang…

 

rebolusyon ang magtatayo!

‘Cha-cha’ to worsen PH ruin, says group

By Melvin Gascon

Environment groups on Monday expressed concern over the proposed charter change by the Duterte government, saying the draft federal constitution bodes danger for the environment.

In a statement, Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment rejected the bid to change the constitution and replace it with one that would supposedly allow foreigners and political dynasties to gain full control of the exploitation of the country’s mineral resources.

“We resoundingly reject Duterte’s Cha-cha which would only open up more of our natural resources, lands, and coastal areas to 100-percent privatization and foreign ownership,” said Leon Dulce, Kalikasan national coordinator.

Kalikasan cited provisions in the draft constitution which supposedly removed the exclusive right of Filipino-owned companies to exploit the country’s natural resources.

Under a proposed federal system of government, natural resources will supposedly be under the control of regional republics, which, Dulce said, will most surely fall into the hands of the regions’ political dynasties.

Only worse’

The group thumbed down the government’s ongoing efforts to address ecological problems, saying these were “not commensurate” with the rate of environmental destruction the country is facing.

On the contrary, the Duterte government is “encouraging policies which threaten to exacerbate these losses,” Kalikasan said.

The group also challenged the government to protest the reported destruction by Chinese fishermen of corals and other marine resources in the West Philippine Sea.

“We are with the 80 percent of the Filipino people opposed to the Duterte regime’s continuing inaction over China’s continuing occupation and reclamation efforts in our water (and the) 90 percent of Filipinos who strongly believe retaking the reefs and shoals turned into islands are on just grounds,” Kalikasan said.

They slammed the Duterte government’s centerpiece of its environmental programs, the rehabilitation of Boracay island, as “a fake program”, as this was carried out with no concrete strategic plans.

“No concrete action has been taken on the still-permitted mega-casinos and big resorts, and attempts at independent investigations into the island’s situation are being prevented,” Dulce said.

Kalikasan also assailed the alleged failure of President Duterte to make good his promise to make erring mining companies liable for their violations against the country’s environmental laws.

“Duterte’s hogwash rants against the big mines are being contradicted by the actions of his own Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) which is set to reopen and allow to operate at least 24 of the 28 big mines supposedly up for closure or suspension,” they said.

“More and more people will get to see for whom this regime indeed stands for: the mining oligarchs at the helm of his own (members of) Congress and Cabinet,” Kalikasan added. #

Warrior chieftain hostaged and tricked to surrender, Lumad say

The reported surrender of a legendary tribal leader last June 9 in Talaingod, Davao del Norte was an orchestrated gathering by the military that victimized the ailing and elderly chieftain, Lumad organizations and leaders said.

Lumad organizations Salupongan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanugon and PASAKA Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao Region said Datu Guibang Apoga, who led the Manobo’s successful resistance against logging and mining operations at the Pantaron Mountain Range, did not surrender nor spoke of giving up their struggle to defend their ancestral land.

“In his speech delivered at the assembly, Datu Guibang Apoga spoke of his desire for the Lumad schools to continue to serve his people. Owing to his failing health and increasing age, he spoke of what he perceived as his inadequacies as the tribe’s tribal chieftain,” Salupongan said in a statement.

“Nowhere in his brief discourse did he speak of surrendering his conviction nor did he endorse the demise of his tribe and his people,” the group added.

The 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army (IDPA) said Apoga was a member of the New People’s Army (NPA) who has defected to the military by turning over his M16 rifle to Brigadier General Ernesto C Torres Jr AFP, Commander of the 1003rd Brigade during the ceremony.

Five hundred Lumads witnessed the event, the military said.

“After more than two decades of being ‘out’ and having been legendary among his circle for his political efforts in supporting the NPA, Datu Gibang is now back to Nasilaban. His surrender would definitely hasten the clearing of areas in and around Talaingod from CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) and NPA influence,” the 10th IDPA added.

Pasaka chairperson Kerlan Fanagel, however, said Apoga was lured into attending an assembly of about 150 Lumad only, orchestrated by the paramilitary group Alamara and the military.

Fanagel said Apoga was “hostaged and pressured” by the overwhelming presence of the military.

A downcast Datu Guibang presenting a rifle to a group of euphoric army officers. (Philippine Army photo)

“In his brief speech, Datu Guibang never said mining operations may already be allowed on Pantaron and their Lumad schools should already be closed,” Fanagel told Kodao, quoting Salupongan council officers and members present at the event.

Fanagel said Rural Missionaries of the Philippines paramedics tried to approach Apoga to give him a physical check up but the octogenarian chieftain was constantly surrounded by the military.

Fanagel added that based on the chieftain’s medical history, they suspect Apoga to be suffering from a kidney ailment.

Apoga and other Manobo chieftains in Talaingod launched a pangayaw (a tribal war) in 1993 to prevent logging operations by the Alcantara & Sons (Alsons) corporation.

Apoga and the other datu (chieftain) formed the Salupongan ‘Ta Igkanugon (Unity for the Defense of Ancestral Land) fought off Alsons’s private army and the military with native weapons and old rifles and won.

The government, however, ordered the arrest of Apoga and 25 other datus and have since been hunted by the military, until June 9.

Salupongan said the government has failed to sway its members by deceiving Apoga into attending a tribal assembly that turned into a fake surrender ceremony.

“[The government] has grown desperate in quelling our ranks in the last few months, first by pouring an overwhelming number of state forces in our lands by three Army battalions, second by campaigning for the closure of community schools and harassing community teachers, students and parents, and third by finagling Datu Guibang as a surrendered leader,” Salupongan said.

Apoga (center, third row) looking sullen as a military officer leads a collective reading of an oath. (Philippine Army photo)

Apoga’s fellow Talaingod chieftain, Bai Bibiyaon Ligkayan Bigkay said the military and the paramilitary Alamara used Apoga’s frail health and advanced age into “pressuring” him to a “staged surrender ceremony.”

In a statement, Bibiyaon rallied the Manobo people to remain unfaltering in defending the Pantaron Range, reminding them of their decades of resistance against military operations from Alsa Lumad and Alamara since the 1990s.

“Many more leaders from among our people who continue to suffer from hunger, government neglect and military abuses will rise to continue Salugpongan’s legacy of resistance. Hence, to all the Manobo and lumad people, our resolve must remain unfaltering like the Pantaron on which generations of our people have lived and depended on for generations,” Bibiyaon said.

“We must prevail for as long as the causes of our oppression continue to persist and deny us of the right to live with dignity,” Bibiyaon said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

 

A woman who ‘squeezed men’s balls’ in defense of her homeland

By Kimberlie Ngabit-Quitasol

BONTOC, MOUNTAIN PROVINCE–Today, May 31, Petra “Ina Tannao” Macliing, a pioneering indigenous woman leader who stood against corporate greed, development agression and martial law was laid to rest in her beloved Mainit village in Bontoc, Mountain Province.

She is far from being “weak and meek”—as President Rodrgio Duterte said women are. She is not just an indigenous woman leader but a fierce warrior.

In the 1970s, women from Mainit village bared their breasts as they confronted engineers of a mining company that intended to operate in their ancestral land. Baring breasts among the Bontoc are believed to hex unwanted strangers in their communities. The engineers left.

The leader of the warrior women was Ina Tannao who passed on last May 25, 90 years old at the time of her passing.

This story about Ina Tannao and the Mainit women is a tale retold in gatherings of women activists to illustrate the lengths Cordillera women will go to protect their homeland from aggressors.

Ina Chamgay Tay-ug was with Ina Tannao when the women drove away the mining engineers. She vividly remembers that day but struggles now to remember the date.

“Tannao gathered us women that day. She told us we will be the ones to stop [the mine] from destroying our mountain,” she related.

Ina Chamgay said the women climbed the mountain where the engineers were drilling, and “stripped naked like Tannao told us.”

“We dared them to harm the womb from where they came,” she said.

After driving the engineers away, the Mainit women raided their camp, took all of their supplies to the town center and left these there to rot. “We did not eat their food. We just wanted them to leave,” Ina Chamgay said.

The Mainit women’s chants are still being shouted in political gatherings today: “Uray maid armas mi/ armas mi nan ima mi / estawes, esta-gawis/ ikmer mi snan fitfitli, fitfitlin na raraki/ estawes, esta-gawis!” (We may not be armed/ but our hands are our weapons/ We use our bare hands to squeeze balls, the balls of men.)

Despite having similar names, Ina Tannao is not related to Cordillera hero Macli-ing Dulag, the Butbut tribe pangat (leader) in Kalinga who was assassinated in 1980 for opposing the Chico River Dam project of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. But like Dulag, Ina Tannao also actively opposed the World Bank-funded Chico Dam project and fought the entry of mining ventures in her province.

Ina Tannao did not confine herself solely to the concerns of her village. She attended bodong (peace pact) conferences where the pangats from the Bontoc and Kalinga villages discussed the impact of the Chico river projects, Joanna Cariño said, founder of the activist group Cordillera Peoples Alliance. These conferences unified the Cordillera against the dam project, corporate logging in Abra province and Marcos’s Martial Law.

From 1981 to 1983, Ina Tannao helped form the Cordillera Bodong Association and became the only female pangat. Ina Tannao also helped form the Kalinga-Bontoc Peace Pact Holders Association in 1979, a federation of tribal leaders and peace pact holders.

Ina Tannao lost her husband early and was left to raise eight children. Her only son died at a very young age.

She earned a living on the farm or by tending to a sari-sari store in order to put her seven daughters through college.

Lawyer Franscesca Macliing-Claver, her youngest child, said she was three months old when her father died. “She was the only parent I have known,” she said.

Ina Tannao once told her children a story about a couple who offered to adopt their youngest sibling, Claver said. “I was that baby. The couple came with baby clothes and feeding bottles, ready to fetch me. But my mother refused to give me up,” she said. “My sisters used to tease me that I was destined to have a different surname.”

Georgia Velasco of the Cordillera Elders Alliance (CEA) said she met Mother Petra in early 1980s when the older woman encouraged her peers to take adult literacy classes. “She valued education and learning and never stopped learning and sharing what she learned to others,” even though Mother Petra never attended college, Velasco said.

Ina Tannao helped organize her fellow literacy students into a farmers organization. At the age of 70, she helped form the Cordillera Elders Alliance in 2006. She traveled to the Cordillera provinces to speak to fellow elders about their continuing struggle for social justice.

“If she did not suffer from dementia and was still alive today, she would have opposed the misogyny of President Duterte,” Cariño said.

Macliing’s contributions to social transformation is recognized by local and international bodies.

On May 29, Sagada officials headed by Mayor James Pooten personally handed to the Macling family a council resolution honoring Mother Petra. The resolution recognized her leadership in the Cordillera people’s struggle against the Chico River dams, Cellophil logging, entry of mining in her Mainit village and against Marcos’s dictatorship. “Let her noble accomplishments serve as an inspiration to the present and coming generation,” the resolution read.

In 2009, Macliing was honored as among nine awardees for outstanding rural women of the world of the Women’s World Summit Foundation’s Laureate Prize for Rural Women. She was recognized for her pioneering work and invaluable contribution to the Cordillera people’s struggle for indigenous people’s rights to their land and to self determination. The WWSF Laureate Award honors creative and courageous women for their contribution in improving the quality of life in rural communities, for protecting the environment, transmitting knowledge and standing up for human rights and peace.

In 2012, Macliing was one of the six Filipino women awarded by the Asian Rural Women’s Coalition during the 5th International Day of Rural Women for advancing and promoting indigenous peoples rights and civil rights; for combating violence against women and for seeking better treatment of the rural poor, political prisoners, farmers and children.

Current CPA chair Windel Bolinget said that while they mourn Ina Tannao’s passing they celebrate her life, “a life well lived”. He said that she set a shining example for the younger generation to follow.

Bolinget challenged everyone to follow Ina Tannao’s example in defending the Cordillera homeland from development agression and continue her work for social justice and national freedom.

“For there is no greater tribute to Ina Tannao but to continue what she has started in the defense of the Cordillera homeland, advancing the right to self-determination and genuine autonomy,” Bolinget said. #