Miners accused of funding militias in Surigao Sur
To demand justice and accountability from big mining companies for the recent Lumad killings in Surigao del Sur, about 100 protesters picketed on Tuesday morning outside the Solaire Casino and Resort along Aseana Avenue in Parañaque City, where the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines held its Mining Philippines 2015 Conference.
Members of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE), Katribu and the Defend Patrimony Alliance gathered along Diokno Avenue at the corner of Aseana Avenue, just outside the entertainment complex, and carried with them banners, which slammed the event sponsors whom they tagged as “promoters of pollution, plunder, and militarization.”
Kalikasan PNE national coordinator Clemente Bautista said that the main sponsors of the mining conference, which included Philex Mining, Nickel Asia and Red 5 Limited, have been “the leading sponsors” of paramilitary groups in mine-affected communities in Mindanao.
“These sponsors also have extensive track records of pollution and plunder over the past recent years,” added Bautista.
However, the Chamber of Mines strongly denied having any links to paramilitary groups to weaken the indigenous communities’ resistance to mining in their areas. It pledged to help the police investigate the killings of the lumad in Surigao del Sur.
It issued a statement Tuesday night, which read, as follows: “The Chamber is not aware of the involvement of any of its member-firms in this case. We condemn the killing and offer our sincerest sympathies to the victims’ loved ones. Among the foundations of responsible mining is respect for human life, for human rights, and for indigenous peoples rights.
We will cooperate with police authorities and be willing to participate in any investigation on the alleged killings.”
The Kalikasan People’s Network, meanwhile, claimed that all these groups have benefited from the militarization of indigenous Lumad communities in the Caraga region while another mining company, the Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) funded paramilitary groups in Lumad communities, which fought mining projects in Tampakan, South Cotabato.
“The recent killings in a Lumad school in the town of Lianga, Surigao del Sur, is part and parcel of the Aquino government’s Oplan Bayanihan inextricably linked to mining and other big business interests in the region. The Andap Valley Complex, in which Lianga, is situated is known to be one of the biggest coal reserves in the country, and the killing rampage that forced more than 3,000 Lumads to evacuate to the city center seems motivated to protect these investments,” explained Bautista.
Lumad school director Emerito Samarca and Lumad leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Juvello Sinzo were recently killed in Surigao del Sur allegedly by paramilitary forces.
“These big miners are responsible, not only for the pollution they have caused, but also for the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and their paramilitary attack dogs who have transformed mine-affected villages into killing fields. But the serious accountability of large-scale miners is a pipe dream when they have collaborationist public officials, and some of them will be exhibited in the conference itself,” added Bautista.
The green group said they would continue to “demand accountability and justice for the pollution and plunder brought by these large-scale miners.”
“We demand immediate justice for our Lumad brothers and sisters and the pull-out of the butcher mining companies that militarized their communities. We also promise to the collaborationist politicians that aid and abet these onerous mining projects that they will be met with our vigorous opposition,” Bautista said.
(With a report from Riza Olchondra)
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