02 August 2016
DENR Sec. Gina Lopez is commendable for her remarkably firm stand against open pit mining in the country, as well as her decisive asseveration of the Duterte administration’s disapproval of the controversial and environmentally destructive US$5.9 billion Tampakan copper-gold project in South Cotabato.
The Philippine government was never determined in defending the environment and the people’s welfare. Instead guileful schemes and atrocious policies such as RA 7942 and EO 79 were created to legitimize mining plunder.
In February 2013, the BS Aquino government even issued an environment compliance certificate (ECC) for Xstrata-SMI, the operator of the Tampakan mine, despite the intensifying people’s resentment against the devastative effects of large-scale mining. The issuance of the ECC blatantly defy and shelve the anti-open pit mining provisions of the Environment Code of South Cotabato which reflects the people’s real sentiment against the Tampakan copper-gold project.
Widespread human rights violations and killings highlighted the “cleansing” of the mining site in preparation for the mining operations. Not only did the foreign mining company effectively rob the indigenous people of their ancestral land, it also bankrolled AFP troops and operatives who do the murdering of anti-mining activists and slaying of Lumad mining dissidents.
In the face of the state-backed aggressive attacks on the indigenous people and civilians, the Lumad people in the mining site have waged armed resistance to defend their ancestral land and right to self-determination. An unceasing fight in the legal front against the Xstrata-SMI mining encroachment was also carried out by the broad masses in FarSouth Mindanao Region. The vicious exploits of the greedy miners and the military were exposed, earning widespread denunciation from anti-mining and human rights advocates in the country and around the globe.
While the government took no serious consideration about the issues pertaining to the environment and the indigenous people’s welfare, the national democratic movement in FarSouth Mindanao has always been a consistent leading force in the people’s struggle against environmentally destructive large-scale mining protected by the reactionary state.
The New People’s Army and the revolutionary forces in the region are the most reliable allies of the weak and disenfranchised victims of the mining company encroachment and state atrocities. Over the past years, the NPA have carried out several punitive actions against the company, its private armed guards and the AFP and PNP troops protecting its operation.
The masses and the revolutionary movement have proven that their revolutionary armed resistance and the unceasing broad and intensified protests are the most powerful weapons in defending themselves and hinder the large-scale mining operation. These are also the primal reasons that pushed the Australian company Western Mining Corporation to withdraw in 2005, and the Anglo-Swiss multinational Glencore-Xstrata International Plc to divest from the Tampakan project putting its operation on hold since 2014. And these are the most compelling factors for the DENR to come up with the crucial decision to stop the Tampakan copper-gold project.
Sec. Lopez’s announcement to cease the mining operation in Tampakan is congruent with the people’s stand in objecting the disastrous and plunderous mining project. Certainly, it is a victory of the democratic mass movement and the unwavering revolutionary armed struggle in the countryside who will never give up the fight in defending the people’s interests and welfare and the protection of the environment.
It is anticipated that in the presence of the open-pit mining ban, superprofit-greedy miners are likely to employ other mining methods so that their operation would be uninterrupted. Still, they will be putting the lives of the people and the environment at risk. But the NPA and revolutionary forces and the broad masses in FarSouth Mindanao are determined to carry on the battle against mining destruction and plunder, and win bigger victories for the people and the environment.
(Sgd.) Ka Efren Aksasato