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Thursday, February 23, 2017
Indigenous Filipinos tackle mining giant at its AGM
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¬†Members of the Columban Missionary Society were among the supporters of two representatives of indigenous peoples who attended the recent London Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the world's fourth largest mining company to protest its activities in the Philippines. Rupina Moyaen and Santos Mero told company shareholders that local people do not want UK-based Anglo American to conduct exploration for mining on their ancestral lands in the northern island of Luzon. "We support the peoples' right to say 'No' to mining" said Columban Fathers Frank Nally and Aodh O'Halpin, who were leafleting shareholders as they entered the meeting at the Royal Society on 17 April. In 2005, a subsidiary of Anglo American, called Cordillera Exploration Incorporated, was granted an exploration permit by the Philippine government, covering substantial lands of the Igorot people in Apayao Province. At the AGM, Rupina presented a statement indicating the opposition of the community, the reasons for their fears, the creation of divisions in the community, and the harassment of opposition, including death threats and the assassination of leaders. "The municipal mayor has threatened those who are against mining to leave the area as the mining projects will pursue against all odds" Rupina said. Rupina is the Chairperson of the Save Apayao Peoples Organization, which is spearheading local opposition to the proposed large-scale mining plans. Santos works for the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), which is an independent federation of indigenous peoples organizations in the Cordillera Region, committed to defending indigenous peoples' rights. Philippine laws specify that indigenous people affected by mining must give their "free prior informed consent" before any mining can be allowed. When Santos and Rupina pointed out that this had not happened, despite government assurances, Sir Mark Moody Stuart ≠ company chairman - countered by saying that as far as the company was concerned they had received the consent and that those objecting were a minority. At the 2006 AGM, he made a firm commitment for the company to meet with community representatives opposing their plans. However, an agreed dialogue with community elders arranged for mid-July 2006 was cancelled at extremely short notice and has not been re-scheduled. The people in the area fear the impacts of the proposed mining projects. Mining in the Philippines has an extremely poor reputation. It has left over 800 abandoned mines littered throughout the countryside, caused massive environmental damage and has been linked to serious human rights abuses. The legacy from abandoned mines and the operation of existing ones continue to negatively affect the livelihoods of many thousands of poor Filipinos. These effects are particularly detrimental to the Philippines indigenous peoples. Over 800 extrajudicial killings have been reported since 2001. Disturbingly, a number of these are believed to be directly linked to protests against mining. The current plans for a major expansion of the mining industry ≠ some involving British companies - will seriously exacerbate all of these problems. The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines has called for the country's 1995 Mining Act to be repealed and for plans for a massive expansion of mining in the country to be shelved. At the January launch in London of a report into mining ≠ 'Mining in the Philippines - Concerns and Conflict' - a letter to the launch was read out from Bishop Zacarias Jimenez of Butuan, chair of the Episcopal Commission on Indigenous People, in which he indicated that he saw transnational mining companies as bringing "empty promises of progress and development". Read the full report on
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