Fascist onslaught in Zambales paves way for renewed plunder
In August 21, around 190 Aeta families flocked to Barangay Aglao in San Marcelino, Zambales to seek refuge in the barangay’s covered court. Majority of the approximately 660 refugees are children. Terror drove the Aetas from their community in neighboring Barangay Buhawen, after four combat helicopters rained bombs in Sitio Lumibao .
At least nine residents fleeing the bombings were illegally detained by operating troops on the charge that they were members of the New People’s Army. Four of the victims are minors. Residents Witi Ramos, Jepoy Ramos and Nalin Ramos, who opted to stay behind, were accosted and tortured. In an act of subhuman cruelty, soldiers forced Nalin Ramos to eat their feces.
The Aeta’s farms and hunting grounds were destroyed, and their farm animals butchered and eaten by the soldiers.
The Aeta minorities said that they were terrified by the thunderous shaking of the earth because of the bombings. But what worries them more is the threat of renewed operations by big mining corporations in Buhawen and the rest of Zambales Mountain Range, which forms part of the Aetas’ ancestral land.
Even prior to the August 21 bombings, soldiers of the Philippine Army’s 7th ID, the Philippine Air Force’ Special Operations Wing and the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force have launched prolonged attacks in the province. Military operations which have been ongoing since March 2019 reach as far north towards Palauig, Iba and Masinloc, and also cover towns in neighboring Tarlac and Pampanga.
These pave the way for the return of four large-scale mining companies whose operations were previously suspended because of their severe damages to the environment. Mining activities of BenguetCorp Nickel Mine, Zambales Diversified Metals Corp, LNL Archipelagic Mining and Eramen Minerals were suspended in February 2017 by the then environment secretary Gina Lopez . Last July, however, former military chief Roy Cimatu who now heads the agency allowed these companies to resume operations. Meanwhile, no less than 28 more large-scale mines are currently operating in various parts of Zambales.
With suspensions lifted, BenguetCorp is set to revive its operations in Barangay Buhawen, despite the irreversible environmental damage it has caused when it operated an open-pit mine in the village. The company runs another nickel mining in Sta. Cruz, near the borders of Pangasinan.
Apart from destructive mining companies, Aeta ancestral lands and peasant farms in Zambales are also arrogated by the private energy companies, the National Greening Program, infrastructure projects, private cattle ranches and real estate businesses.