CPDF: People’s opposition to mining is just and warranted Philex maneuvers to hide legacy of destruction and greed

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These are indeed revolutionary times. Before 2021 ended, it was reported that the people of Mankayan rejected a mining application from the Cordillera Exploration, Inc. that would have destroyed 11,000 hectares of their ancestral territory. In their Resolution of Non-Consent, they stipulated their intention to protect their remaining environment and resources. They recognized that mining operations cause conflict and division among the people. They also cited as basis the negative experience brought about by the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Corporation.

The people are reaffirming and continuing the lessons acquired from the lives and struggles of those that came before them. Large scale mining has caused so much destruction and displacement, without the development it promised, that the experience of Benguet is now etched in the collective consciousness of the Cordillera peoples. The people have thus spoken and mining companies must take note.

True Story

Companies of extractive industries have always plundered ancestral territories with blatant disregard for the people, their homes and their livelihoods. Philex Mining Corporation itself admitted as much when it defaulted on its own plans to close the Padcal mines by the end of 2022. Instead, it will extend the operations until 2024 because world market prices of metals have ‘stabilized’ with gold and copper’s global prices on the rise. After 63 years, when it should have recognized that it has finally exploited the site to its last milligram of gold, it instead decided to search for nearby ore bodies and force a continuation to the Padcal mine life.

To hide their greed and somehow compensate for the devastation they have caused, Philex beefs up its public relations efforts. When miners initially voted to strike last December, it intentionally dismissed the workers’ reasons. It painted pictures of ingratitude and disloyalty when it commented that the miners chose to do so despite the improvements in workers’ benefits. It even went on to claim that the mines contributed greatly to the overall development of the host communities and Benguet itself.

While these supposed benefits and contribution to developments remain contested, what is clear and certain is the destruction the mines caused and the vast profits that Philex gained by it. A 2017 study by the think tank IBON Foundation observed that poverty incidence is highest in regions with mining activities. Government statistics of 2015 have indicated that four out of the top five poorest regions host the biggest mining operations. If Philex keeps on extending the mine life of an already devastated mine site and keeps on exploring ore bodies, and if other mining companies are given permits even through underhanded maneuvers, the Cordillera could well find itself among this list.

To make it worse, the Philippines is hardly gaining anything from these mining operations. In 2015, total production value in mining was at Php179.7 billion. Of this, 73 percent was exported (Php131 billion). Yet, in 2020, the industry contributed a mere 0.76 percent to the gross domestic product.

Cry Me A River

Philex is not the only one. The Duterte regime itself hides behind pronouncements but proceeds to the usual business of lifting the moratorium on new mining agreements. During the United Nations Climate Change Conference late last year, the administration had the gall to dupe the international community by committing to the transition towards low-carbon and climate-resilient society and then crafting mining and other energy policies that actually ravage the environment and the people in it.

Apologists of capitalist mining worry that shutting down the industry would cause ‘expansive poverty’ as if poverty in Philippine society is not already systemic and deep-rooted. They claim that it would affect economic growth negatively as if there is even any to speak of, or as if any growth does reach the indigenous tribes or the Filipino people in general.

False pronouncements and absurd worries cannot belie the fact that Philex has made its legacy one of destruction. It releases toxins into the air, dumps poison into the rivers and into the irrigation system, damages entire ecosystems and endangers families and communities. The people of Benguet and nearby areas must continue to be vigilant, especially against dirty maneuvers similar to what the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples did to enforce the strongly opposed dam projects in the Apayao-Abulug River.

Mining operations, construction of dams and dirty tactics to frustrate the people’s rightful opposition, coupled with criminal government neglect—these are some of the factors that validate armed struggle. Any campaign to protect indigenous rights and territories will involve an armed component. The reactionaries are aware of this and the people must guard against fascism, vilification of legal democratic groups and Red-tagging. In the face of such important struggles, big business owners and their lackeys in government are only reaffirming that an armed revolution is the only genuine solution to free the people from the shackles of capitalism, oppression and poverty. ###

Expose Philex’ lies! Continue to resist capitalist mining!
Hold erring government agencies accountable! Serve the people and not big corporations!
Advance the national democratic revolution! Fetad ingganas balligi!

CPDF: People’s opposition to mining is just and warranted Philex maneuvers to hide legacy of destruction and greed