MANILA, Oct. 18, 2011—A group that advocates empowerment among marginalized people has called on President Benigno Aquino III to repeal his approval for mining companies to organize its own armed units to protect its operations.
The Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center Kasama sa Kalikasan / Friends of the Earth – Philippines (LRCK-KsK/FoE-Philippines) in a statement on October 16, said it is the indigenous people and rural communities who are in need of government protection from violent attacks, and not mining corporations.
“We are demanding from President Aquino to make a break in the cycle of violence that has marked government policies and actions in the past. Do not use the rebel attacks against mining operations in Claver as an excuse to again escalate conflict and violence in ancestral domains and rural communities,” the group said in a statement.
The president has recently approved proposal of mining companies to create their own Special CAFGU Armed Auxiliary (SCAA) units to secure their operations.
On October 12, Aquino sanctioned the deployment of paramilitary units to protect mining companies after forces of New People’s Army attacked mining operations at Surigao del Norte, killing three private security guards.
Amnesty International in a statement said the Aquino government should withdraw the plan of deploying militias noting that CAFGU’s (Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Units) has a long history of human rights violations in the country.
It stressed that it would be on the government’s responsibility if human rights violations are committed by militias “which the military has trained, equipped and deployed, even if they are securing private interests of mining corporations.”
For its part, the LRKC said the president’s approval of mining militias violates the rights of indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination inside their ancestral domains.
The indigenous peoples’ continued resistance against mining operations on their ancestral lands has sparked violence and death among leaders in the community.
The deployment of military units in 2008 in Compostela Valley by then President Arroyo after a gold processing plant was attacked by NPA rebels led to the harassment and displacement of hundreds of indigenous people in the area.
Similar instances of violence involving paramilitary units had been reported even before as in the case of Sibuyan Councilor Armin Marin who was killed by a security guard in 2007 during a protest against nickel mining in Sibuyan Island.
Other anti-mining advocates who met their death in the course of their struggle against mining include Eliezer Billianes who led campaigns against the Swiss Xstrata Tampakan Gold Copper Project, and was killed in a public market in 2009.
Ricardo Banad who had opposed the Mindoro Nickel Project of Norwegian Intex Resources was killed in his house in 2010.
In January this year, Dr. Jerry Ortega who denounced mining in Palawan was killed by hired killers; while in March, Rudy Segovia, another anti-mining advocate was gunned down in a road blockade set up in protest of TVI Resources Development (TVIRD).
The group said that even without the government sanction of deploying militias in mining areas, environmentalists and human rights defenders have been killed.
Approving their deployment “would be tantamount to formalizing mining related human rights violations,” they stressed.
“Again we urge President Aquino to put an end to all this violence, prioritize the protection of indigenous peoples and rural communities and work to give justice to mining related human rights violations,” the group stated.
“It is also time for government to end facilitating and protecting corporate plunder of the environment at all costs in exchange for a pittance in government revenues. A new Minerals Management Law must be enacted to replace the conflict causing Mining Act of 1995,” they further said. (CBCPNews)