What if your government, instead of serving the people, was favouring powerful transnational corporations? What if public officials cited executive privilege even when you demand for transparency? What if you and your whole community’s cries went unheard because you weren’t rich or educated or well connected? What if the courts discriminated against you because you were poor?
None of the above is truly a “what if”; they are all part of the harsh reality of the Philippines . What is important to note is that this drama does not simply play out at one level of government. These patterns of corruption repeat themselves across the country, when government chooses profit over people.
We here in Manila see it unfolding in terms of broadband contracts and golf course deals.
Meanwhile, in the provinces, the communities of indigenous peoples have seen this pattern unfold when mining companies and the government work together to deprive them of their lands, livelihood and life.
Yet, just as Senate investigations and noise barrages and prayer rallies finally begin to come together to shine a light on the government’s worst behaviour, the indigenous peoples of the country continue to defy the government’s attempts to shove mining down their throats.
When the lands of the of the indigenous settlers in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya were threatened by a mine that was insisting on a right to delve a hole in the heart of the area’s rich citrus orchards, a coalition of people from diverse tribes, counting members from the tribes of the Bugkalots, Ifugao, Kalanguya, Ibaloi among them, united to blockade their roads against mining equipment. The line held against the miners, local politicians and even the military, offering up such stiff and continued resistance that the DENR was forced to order a halt to operations, neatly glossing over their complicity in allowing a mine to dig up a watershed area.
When the native Subanons of Zamboanga del Norte lost their sacred Mt. Canatuan to a Canadian mine, and the site of their rituals obliterated, a whole chunk of their culture was destroyed. What had been theirs since time immemorial was lost in the blink of an eye. Yet they refused to stop fighting, finally bringing their case before UN courts in Geneva , and effectively forcing the Philippine government to answer for its inability to protect the Subanon’s rights.
The country’s Indigenous Peoples are the country’s most marginalized group. Their voice is ignored by government, and their struggle is well outside the public consciousness. But it is their voice that stirs the Church to action; that rouses the community to outrage; that brings the government to account before the international community. And their fight is not only for justice, but for the survival of their way of life. We should honor them, and take their lesson and example to heart – a voice raised in outcry never goes unheard for long – so that our collective voice can burst through the wilderness that breeds greed and injustice.
We continue to raise our voices with our indigenous brothers and sisters: No to Large-scale Mining!
ALYANSA TIGIL MINA
Anti-Mining Solidarity Week
March 7, 2008
ALAMIN * Amnesty Int’l.-Pilipinas * Bayombong DSAC * Brigadang Berde * CARE-Phils. * CAVAPPED * Christian Aid * CSC-CSD * COASTAL CORE/BAAM * CONCERN * CORDNET * DCMI * Earth Savers Mov’t. * Eco.Society of the Phils. * El Pescador * Environmental Legal Assistance Center * Environmental Broadcast Circle * Foundation for the Care of Creation * Foundation for the Philippine Environment * Gabaldon Reform Mov’t. * GOMBURZA * HARIBON Foundation * Homonhon Environment Resources Organization * Huk Vets Foundation*Institute of Sisters of Mercy * JPICC-AMRSP * KAISAMPALAD * KASAPI * Lingkod Tao-Kalikasan * LRC-KSK/FOEI * Mangyan Mission * Miriam College-PEACE * PhilDHRRA * Phil. Federation for Environmental Concerns * Phil. Indigenous Peoples Links * PREDA Foundation * SAC-TANDAG * Sibuyanons Against Mining * TANGGOL Kalikasan * TEBTEBBA Foundation * WEDPRO * Yakan Integrated Rural Development Foundation Inc. * Marinduque Council for Environmental Concerns * Youth for Sustainable Development Assembly