Archive for August 19th, 2008

Editorial Cartoon: CA Controversy

August 19, 2008

Direct hit to the Judiciary.

Benguet folk unite against large, destructive mining

August 19, 2008

La Trinidad, Benguet — Some 156 representatives from the 13 municipalities of Benguet province gathered on August 7 in a conference to discuss community issues and concerns on large and destructive mining and share experiences and lessons from successful struggles, which resulted to the formation of the Benguet Mining Alert and Action Network or BMAAN.

The conference resulted from an urgent need for collective action for the people of Benguet to respond to the mining issues of the province, being primarily affected by these. It is also timely, as an expression of celebrating the International Indigenous Peoples Day which falls on August 9.

The was organized by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, Itogon-Inter Barangay Alliance (IIB-A) and the Danggayan dagiti Maidadanes nga Umili ti Mankayan (DAMAYAN).

As collectively decided by its members, the BMAAN will serve as a venue for “sharing knowledge and skills for monitoring and documentation; planning and coordinating common activities and learning from our shared experiences and using the lessons to plan and conduct further actions.”

Mining Liberalization in the Cordillera

CPA Deputy Secretary General Santos Mero discussed the Cordillera mining situation while focusing on current mining applications, exploration and operations in Benguet after sharing the history of large mining in the province.

Mero explained that 66% of the region’s total land area is covered by various mining applications on top of the existing large mining operations, such as Lepanto Consolidated in Mankayan and Philex Mines in Itogon. Mero added that five of the 23 priority mining projects of the GMA administration is located in the Cordillera, namely: Teresa Gold Project, Far Southeast Project and Victoria Project all by Lepanto in Mankayan; Project 3000 of Itogon Suyoc Mines, Pacdal Copper Expansion Project by Philex Mines, and the Batong Buhay Project by the Philippine Mining Development Corporation. Except for the Pacdal Expansion Project and Far Southeast, the other projects are already in operation. Except for Batong Buhay, the rest are located in Benguet.

Mero noted in his discussion the presence and operations of transnational mining corporations in Benguet such as UK-based Anglo-American (with Philex Mines, Lepanto, Cordillera Exploration, and Northern Luzon Exploration Company); Australia-based Oxiana/Royalco whose FPIC acquisition in Bakun is under question; Anvil Mining Company (Australian), which now owns the Itogon Suyoc Mines in Sangilo, Itogon; Ivanhoe Mines from Canada which has a 12% share from Lepanto; Bezant Resources (UK) with an ongoing exploration at Guinaoang and Bulalacao in Mankayan. Bezant also owns 60% of Crescent Mining also in Mankayan; Metals Exploration PLC or MTL Philippines (UK) with applications in Atok, Tublay, and Bokod, and Columbus/Magellan Metals, also with applications in Bokod.

Foreign mining companies in other provinces include Terra Nova Exploration/Wolfland (Canadian), which has exploration activities in Tabuk, Kalinga. The US-based Phelps Dodge has partnered locally with Makilala Mining; Olympus mining company (Canada), which violated the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) of the Binongan communities in Baay Licuan, Abra; Golden Valley Exploration (Australia) also in Abra and Oceana Gold/Climax Arimco (Australia) which has partnered with Copper Fields for operations in Apayao.

Municipal representatives shared updates on ground developments, such as in Brgy. Gambang in Bakun on their opposition to Royalco’s mining interests and question to its FPIC acquisition. Representatives of Mankayan and Itogon shared the lessons and gains from their successful struggles against Lepanto Mining, Benguet Corporation and Philex Mines.

In another important discussion, CPA Secretary General Windel Bolinget discussed the FPIC and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as an added instrument for the assertion of the FPIC.

“The FPIC is not merely a process but a basic inherent right of indigenous peoples that entails genuine participation and decision making of the IPs—that is, right to accept or deny their consent to any project in their territories,” Bolinget stressed. He added that “Free, Prior, and Informed translates to nawaya, kasakbayan/umuna, naipakaammo a pammalubos.”

The conference ended with greater commitment for coordination, communication and concerted action towards strengthening the new formation. # AT Bengwayan(NorthernDispatch)

Benguet town remains a target for mining exploits

August 19, 2008

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Old mine sites in Kibungan are still targets for mineral exploration by various foreign and local mining companies, according to the town’s local elective officials.

Kibungan Vice-mayor Susan Saley-Atuyoc, who was attending a mining conference here Aug. 7 said staff and employees of mining firms frequent the Boneng mine site of the Western Minolco. The site has been closed since 1980 due to company problems.

Earlier Lubo Barangay Captain Arturo Collado, also Association of Barangay Captains president of Kibungan, said his constituents started to lose patience with the insistence of Al Magan Mining Exploration Company (AMMEC) to mine a 132-hectare area at the Benguet-Ilocos Sur boundary, which includes barangays Lubo and Madaymen.

Atlas Mining Corporation is reportedly showing some interest to re-open the old mines, according to Atuyoc.

The town’s residents, however, prefer planting the place with sayote, the vice-mayor disclosed. Some even take pains carrying rich topsoil to rehabilitate the open pit site abandoned for at least 28 years, to grow crops.

“Nakitan ti tattao ti madi nga inyeg ti minas isu a madi dan,” (People have seen the adverse effects of mining so they are apprehensive.) Atuyoc told the media.

Besides Boneng in Lubo, another mining exploration also took place in Tabbak in Barangay Palina, Sakarang in Barangay Madaymen, and Kolokol in Barangay Poblacion. According to Atuyoc, this open exploration was also in the ’70s and ’80s, almost simultaneously with the operations of the Boneng mines.

Atuyoc welcomes information and education efforts of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) to raise people’s consciousness on mining.

She confirmed reports that Kibungan folk have continuously petitioned government agencies Mines and Geo-sciences Bureau (MGB) and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to spare their communities and stop issuing mining permits.

“Nakukulitan na sila,” (They are pestered) Atuyoc said of the people’s indifference to visiting mining engineers.

Atlas reportedly presented its five-year exploration plan with the local town council but Atuyoc said, the result of the field-based investigation as part of the free, prior and informed consent of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) would prevail.

Atuyoc assured the people that the council would study each proposal and lead the people in their legal pursuits and research efforts regarding mining. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorthernDispatch)

Youth group challenges Benguet officials to take a stand for the future

August 19, 2008

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — A youth group in the mining communities of Benguet Thursday challenged local officials to support the people’s growing opposition to mining ventures in the province.

“Tumakder da koma iti posisyon ti umili nga isardeng ti panagminas a makadadael ti pagbiagan ken pagnanaedan,” (They should take the people’s stand to stop mining that destroys people’s livelihood and communities) Rina Mangili, 25, a resident of Ucab, Itogon told the media during the Mining Conference at the ATI/NTI Training Hall in Benguet State University, here.

Mangili, Anakbayan-Benguet spokesperson, is among the participants to the conference, which also launched the Benguet Mining Alert Network later in the afternoon.

As a young girl who grew up among small scale miners and corporate miners, Mangili saw the dwindling mountain resources. The mines left the people with so little tracts of land on which to plant food crops, she said.

Mineral extraction also caused the lowering of the water table. Upper Ucab of around 3,000 persons, has devised a system of rationing water from a tubed source. According to Mangili, each household is entitled to fill only one five-gallon container per day to avail of the potable spring water.

“No kayat dagiti tattao ti ad-adu, agsakdo da iti rabii,” (If people want more, they have to fetch water at night time) said Mangili. She quipped the usual queue lasts up to 10:00 P.M. or even later.

Mangili also mentioned the sinking areas in Tuding, also in Itogon.

Itogon has been host to big mining companies. Benguet Corporation has been in the town since 1903. Philex Mining Corporation, the only remaining active mine site, in the Itogon boundary with Tuba, has been mining since 1958. Itogon-Suyoc Mines has temporarily stopped operations but is now negotiating with Anvil, and Tiger Company, both foreign mining corporations.

A power point presentation by Mary Carling during the conference carried digital renditions of sinking areas in Mankayan, where Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company has been mining for gold and copper since 1936. Of late, the Crescent Development Corporation has acquired an exploration permit and has been exploring for minerals since last year.

Mangili said the youth has to take a stand for the future. “We shall inherit an environment left scarred by mining operations if we do not act now,” she said.

Even the people’s culture is endangered and is facing extinction due to mining. “When people are displaced from their traditional livelihood, they lose their identity as a people,” Mangili said. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorthernDispatch)

NPA renews offensive, 9 soldiers killed in Abra, Kalinga

August 19, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Two commands of the New People’s Army in two Cordillera provinces staged ambuscades on July 30 and August 1 where at least nine government soldiers were killed instantly and a score wounded.

Six army soldiers were killed and nine others were reportedly wounded when the Agustin Begnalen Command (ABC) of the New People’s Army (NPA-Abra) engaged a platoon of operating troops of the Bravo Company, 41st Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army on August 1 at Barangay Duldulao, Malibcong, Abra.

Two of the wounded soldiers later died in a hospital, the ABC statement said.

Earlier on July 30, another NPA squad in Kalinga ambushed the 34-member Charlie Company of the 21st Infantry Brigade in Balbalan, Kalinga. The three-hour firefight killed three soldiers and wounded two more, one died later, according to the NPA’s Lejo Cawilan Command (NPA-Kalinga).

Reports reaching the national media, however, quoted Lt. Eduard Sia-ed, 41st IB public information officer as saying the army company had only two casualties and two wounded. He identified the fatalities as Privates First Class Aurelio Begtang and Jones Andrade.

Sia-ed named the two wounded soldiers as 2nd Lt. June-mar Tutoy and Cpl. Oscar Cagurangan.

“The Red Guerillas used a command-detonated claymore mine and safely withdrew,” ABC said. It claimed a company-sized composite contingent of the Bravo and Charlie Coys is “currently terrorizing the people of Malibcong Poblacion, Duldulao, and Bayabas, and is forcing the people to allow the establishment of detachments in the municipality.”

ABC claimed the overwhelming majority of the people, however, opposed the 41st IB plan.

The ambush lasted only five minutes, according to ABC, but Sia-ed said the firefight with about 20 rebels lasted for about three hours.

The communist rebels claimed no casualty but Sia-ed said according to community reports, “at least five rebels were either killed or wounded.”

“Impositions of the Arroyo regime and the big mining companies will only fuel protests and unrests, and militarization will only intensify armed resistance from the people,” the ABC said in a statement. It professed support to the people’s opposition to large scale mining and all its disguised forms, and vows to frustrate all military and PNP operations to impose alleged development projects and in accordance with Oplan Bantay Laya 2. # Northern Dispatch

Kibungan sayote now branded

August 19, 2008

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Trying to meet market demand for quality vegetables, Kibungan farmers now pack sayote in a specially printed plastic bag to protect both farmers and traders with the Aug. 5 launching of the “branded sayote.”

The new packaging system will ensure quality, guarantee exact weight and product classification, according to Kibungan Mayor Benito Siadto during the launching ceremonies at the National Training Center of the Benguet State University (BSU) here.

Green gold

According to Siadto 70% of the total sayote production in the Cordillera comes from Kibungan. The town’s daily harvest is around 20 tons of sayote, often tagged as green gold. Packed in 25-kilo bags, the sayote commands as much as P14 per kilo or P350 per bag.

“There are times when the product could go as high as P18 per kilo or P450 per bag at the La Trinidad trading post,” said Felix Tiwtiwa, the local government focal person for sayote production.

According Tiwtiwa, roughly 300 hectares of the town’s 900-hectare agricultural lands are planted with sayote with an average harvest of 1,000 kilos per hectare per harvest. He said farmers harvest at least once a week. Peak of harvest is during May, June and July.

Grown abundantly in barangays Sagpat, Poblacion, Lubo, Palina and some parts of Madaymen, sayote made Kibungan among major producers in Benguet. Siadto said, almost all of the seven barangays produce sayote, with only Madaymen producing a variety of temperate vegetables.

Other Benguet towns Atok, Kapangan, La Trinidad, Mankayan, Tuba, Tublay and Sablan also produce commercial quantities of sayote.

Increasing demand

Benito Hipolito, president of Benguet Truckers and Traders Association, said since the classification and repackaging of the Kibungan sayote two weeks ago, orders increased from 50 bags per day to 150 bags per day.

“Pag nagtagumpay ang proyektong ito sa sayote, susunod na rin ang ibang produkto,” (If this project with sayote succeeds, other products will follow suit) Hipolito said, referring to vegetable produce as cabbages, potatoes and other temperate vegetables which Benguet produces.

According to Jonathan Tercero of the La Trinidad trading post Bagsakan Association, some consumers, especially big supermarkets and food chains demand quality products. “They are quite strict with sizes and physical appearance of vegetables,” he told Kibungan producers. He encouraged them to adhere to quality standards to continue to meet market demands.

Government support

The packaging project is funded by the local government unit of Kibungan, which released an initial P300,000 for the purchase and distribution of specially marked plastic bags and weighing scales to 70 clustered communities of sayote growers. Seminars for farmers were also conducted as part of the post-harvest product development.

Earlier, Siadto created the local Sayote Task Force.

The ceremonial signing of the Memorandum of Agreement between local officials of both La Trinidad and Kibungan, the farmer’s group and the traders is among the highlights of the launch.

Municipal Agriculture Officer Rennete Mayamnes said the agriculture profiling project of the town is presently being collated to determine baseline data for all types of crops, including sayote. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorthernDispatch)

Macapagal-Arroyo must go — Pol kill survivor

August 19, 2008

VICTORIA, Canada — “Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo must go,” was the call of Dr. Chandu Claver during his keynote speech on the occasion of the Commemorative Service for his wife, Alice, who was killed in an ambush by suspected government agents in the Philippines two years ago.

The public Forum on Human Rights and the Philippine Situation was held on August 2 at the Selkirk Montessori School in the City of Victoria, Canada. It was sponsored by the Victoria Philippine Solidarity Group and the Stop the Killings in the Philippines Network.

The video presentation entitled “The Philippines: Waging War on the People” was publicly shown for the first time in Victoria. The video indicates how on that fateful day on July 31, 2006, two riflemen hosed down the Claver family car containing the couple and one of their daughters. Alice did not survive her seven gunshot wounds. Dr. Claver and his daughter, though much wounded, survived. Since then, Dr. Claver has linked up with human rights groups in an international campaign called the Stop the Killings Campaign.

Alice Claver was one of 903 Filipinos victims of extra-judicial killings since 2001. Most of the victims were members and leaders of legitimate progressive social organizations working for social changes in the Philippines. Local and international bodies and investigators, notably from the United Nations, have indicated the direct involvement of the Philippine military in these killings. In his talk, Dr. Claver said, “. . . the present Philippine rule is a de facto martial rule, a far cry from the so-called ‘vibrant democracy’ that even the present Canadian government seems to stubbornly think and adhere to.” The killings have been linked to the Philippine Government counter-insurgency program – a program strongly and directly supported by the United States War on Terror.

The Stop the Killings in the Philippines Campaign has spread into numerous countries around the world. This culminated in a process involving the filing of charges against Presidents Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and George W. Bush at the Permanent Peoples Tribunal. The international opinions court found both Arroyo and Bush guilty of crimes against humanity. “International solidarity of peoples across the world has made this possible.” Claver said. But he added, “The number of killings may have noticeably decreased in the last 6 months due to the local and international pressure, but (the killings) definitely have not stopped. . . Getting Arroyo and Bush out of the scene may not be the total answer, but may be a start for better things to come.”

He appeals to Canadians to continue to lobby their government to review Canada’s trade relations with, and military aid to the Philippines. He urged that Canada should find “means of making truly sure that Canadian tax payer’s money is not being used to make the Armed Forces of the Philippines a more efficient killing machine”.

Claver, who together with his three daughters had fled the Philippines due to continued threats and harassments, has been waiting for more than a year for the Immigration and Refugee Board to hear his case for a refugee claim. #(NorthernDispatch)

From Under This Hat: The international IP day celebration

August 19, 2008

By KATHLEEN T. OKUBO

August nine is the International day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (IDWIP). The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), EED Partners Task Force on IP Rights (EED-TFIP), IP Rights Monitor, Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP), Kasapi, SilDAP, and Tebtebba Foundation, commemorated it with a conference in the UP Diliman Campus.

The IDWIP has been celebrated for the past fifteen years since its declaration by the UN in 1994. Last year it was practically a victory celebration for the indigenous populations all over because it was the year the UN Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was passed with an official vote of 143 countries (which was actually 144 when the Mauritious Islands later raised that they also had voted for it.)

This year in the Philippines, this conference has called together different parties: peoples organizations, non-government programs and government agencies that work with or on IP issues, the UN agencies in the country with facilities for IP advocacies, the representatives of the European Union, and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

The conference also and actually became a venue for the participating IPs to ventilate their issues emanating from working with, or in partnership with, or under the auspices of government agencies, church organizations, foundations and others.

One very hot and striking issue which made this venue very timely too was the tension in North Cotabato over the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on ancestral domain.

Indigenous peoples leaders from Mindanao sought the help of all IPOs, government, EU, UN agency-participants to support their call for the GRP-MILF to honor the Lumad-Moro Peace-Pact with reference to their ancestral territories.

Timuay Fernando Mudai, a traditional leader of the Subanen who said he is a 14th generation descendant of the Subanen leadership that drew the Peace-pact (Sapa) between the Lumad and Moro generations ago about their territories.

“The egg, the vine and the rattan tokens from that peace pact still exist.” He said, “if the peace-pact is broken it is like the vine is cut and then it will lose its hold on the ground.”

The participating Mindanao IP leaders “urge the Philippine government and the MILF to respect Lumad territories.”

Mudai said, “We respect the claim of the Bangsamoro over the Sultanates of Maguindanao and Jolo-Sulu, but do not include Lumad territories (in their claim). The MoA between the government and the MILF is a violation of the Sapa (peace pact) made by the Subanens’ forefathers and the Bangsamoro people to define their respective territories. “

“Such sacred covenant of our forefathers must be honored lest we face the consequences of the topu or busong (curse),” warned Mudai.

While the different IP groups support the call made by the Subanens and added also the call for both the government and the MILF to be transparent with their memoranda of agreements for it also affects other peoples and territories in the neighborhood of the Moro areas referred in these agreements.

The NCIP has however been silent on this despite it having had issued ancestral domain title certificates to IPs in the areas affected by the MoA. I wish they would explain this whole lack of communication and/or coordination to IP rights advocates that is so urgent for peoples about to lose their ancestral domains by another stroke of the pen.

As of press time, the NCIP is silent on the issue. #(NorthernDispatch)

Asec asks war vets to support VAT

August 19, 2008

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Office of Veterans Affairs Assistant Secretary Jesus Terry F. Adevoso, who is in town Friday for the 63rd Anniversary of Benguet Liberation, urged war veterans and their respective families to take a position on the proposal to remove Value Added Tax (VAT) and Expanded Value Added Tax (E-VAT).


AGED, ALIVE AND KICKING. Benguet veterans, mostly in their eighties, flash wide smiles as Gov. Nestor Fongwan greeted them saying a provincial resolution grants them, or their kin, burial benefits. The vets celebrated the 63rd year of the province’s liberation on August 15. Photo by Lyn V. Ramo/NORDIS

Adevoso quipped the P7 billion paid in pension arrears to war vets and their widows came from the taxes added on the cost of most consumer products.

“Saan kukuha ang gobyerno ng ipambabayad sa mga utang nito sa inyo kung aalisin natin ang mga buwis na iyan?” (Where will government get funds to pay its arrears to you if we remove these taxes) Adevoso asked the audience.

He said, besides veterans pension, other social services are funded from the collections from VAT and E-VAT, insinuating that its lifting as various sectors clamor is impractical.

Adevoso added he is apprehensive the country’s lawmakers might not be able to see fund sources for the veterans’ monetary claims.

Ano pa kaya ang pagkukunan ng gobyerno ng pondo kundi sa mga buwis?” (Where else will government get funds but from taxes) he said. He warned that a reduction in taxes would affect the veterans’ benefits.

In her State of the Nation Address, Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo admitted VAT kept her administration responding to the needs of the poor. “Magiging kawawa ang mahihirap kapag inalis natin ang VAT (The poor will be miserable if we removed VAT) she said.

Earlier Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng mga Tsuper at operators nationwide (Piston) of the transport sector was clamoring for the removal of VAT from petroleum products to ease the spiraling rise in the prices of crude oil, gasoline and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), which rose by about 20 times since January this year.

Other groups such as the urban poor and student groups Organisayon dagiti Nakurapay nga Umili ti Syudad (ORNUS) and Anakbayan, also raised the scrapping of the VAT on all consumer items because they said it raises the prices of many food items. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorthernDispatch)

Gabriela wants RVAT scrapped

August 19, 2008

QUEZON CITY — Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) Representative Liza Maza last week criticized the Arroyo administration and called for the immediate passage of bills removing Value Added Tax (VAT) on oil and the repeal of Reformed Value Added Tax (RVAT).

Maza also called for price intervention from the Arroyo government with runaway inflation, now at 12.2%, hitting the poor hardest.

According to Maza, the rising inflation rate brought about by an unending increase in food prices betrays the failure of the so-called ‘Katas ng VAT’ poverty alleviation measures that the Arroyo has pompously flaunted in the State of the Nation Address (SONA).

“This calls for drastic reforms in policy and governance that will bring food prices to levels that our people can afford. We believe the immediate removal of the 12% VAT is in order,” said Maza.

The Gabriela solon noted that the lowest-income families, who spend most of their meager income for food, suffer most from the government’s economic mismanagement.

“President Arroyo boasts of having women and children line up for hours for the cheap rice she provides, subsidies and doleouts but the grim reality is: Wala nang pagkain sa mga hapag kainan!” (There is no more to eat on the dining table.)

Government statistics in fact note that inflation was highest in rice at 50 % in July from 43% in June; corn, 40.6% from 34.3%; fruits and vegetables, 13.8 %from 12.5 %.

“All in all, food inflation was at 18.6 in July from 17.4% in June,” said Maza.

A slowdown in the increase in the prices of consumer products would be possible should the government immediately suspend if not repeal the VAT outright, Maza added as she called on other congress representatives to immediately act on House Bill 3458 removing the 12% VAT on oil products and HB 3433 to repeal the RVAT, both filed by Gabriela Women’s Party representatives.

Both Maza and Luz Ilagan have likewise co-authored HB 1724 to repeal the Oil Deregulation Law. # GWP Release

War vets, kin unhappy over US pension package

August 19, 2008

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Announcements of viable financial gains from the impending passing of a US veterans equity law came as a good-news-bad-news for almost a thousand local veterans and their dependents, most find it unfair and absurd.

Benguet veterans, their wives or widows, sons, daughters and grandchildren gathered at the Ben Palispis Hall here Friday to remember their (kin’s) travails for Benguet’s liberation from the Japanese imperial forces.

First the good news

A bill that also provides for Filipino World War II (WWII) veterans to receive a total annual equity veterans affairs (VA) pension of roughly some $100 million, the bill passed the US Senate with an overwhelming 96:1 in April this year.

Filipino WWII veterans have something to look up to with the passing of the US Senate of the Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007, announced Assistant Secretary Jesus Terry F. Adevoso of Malacañang’s Veterans Affairs Office.

Not so much of a good news, the US congress is now on recess before the House of Representatives was able to put the bill to a vote. Congress resumes in September and it is likely that the voting on the bill would take place October, an optimistic Adevoso announced.

Another good news is that more than 300 lawmakers, 230 Democrats and 81 Republicans, are reportedly in favor of passing the equity bill, according to Adevoso. He said the lower house adopted the Senate version that there would be no more need for a bicameral conference to unite the lawmakers.

Under the said bill, a Filipino veteran would receive at least an annual $3,600 (P162,000 at P45:$1) or $300 (13,500) in monthly pensions. In the case of veterans still living with a spouse, the yearly pension would be $4,500 (P202,500) or $375 (P16,875) monthly, according to Adevoso.

At present the vets get a measly P60,000 ($1,335) a year or P5,000 ($111) a month.

Now, the bad news

As Adevoso went on to tell his expectant audience that the US government would be getting the funds from savings from the US veterans disability pension, the crowd almost hold its breath, apparently waiting for another bad, or worse, news.

“It is a problem for the US government to solve,” Adevoso said, his audience not dropping an eyelash. US citizens were protesting why their government would be giving their money to people not living in their country and are not citizens of that country, he said.

The worse news, however, came out when Adevoso announced that widows are not entitled to the benefits, unless their veteran husbands are still alive at the time the pension package takes effect.

“It is unfair,” said Prospera Lee, in her 70’s, twice widowed by two war veterans. Lee also raised questions on the pension systems in the Philippines. She said what she is receiving is way below the needed amount for a veteran to live a decent life.

Filipino veterans number about 45,000, according to the roster made by the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO). The US, however, lists only about 15,000, according to Adevoso.

“Some 30,000 will not receive anything. This is another form of discrimination and inequality,” he said.

Tired going after support

Another widow in her 70’s, Rosalind Bolude whose husband died in 1945 said she is tired going after government support to her and her son.

“I already have five grandchildren and two great grandchildren. I am too old to follow up my claims,” Bolude said.

Congressmen Bob Filner (Democrat) and Darrel Issa (Republican) both from California, sponsored the equity bill, according to Adevoso. Some 52% of all WWII veterans living in the US are in California.

US Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) Benguet District Commander Robert Bellasi said he is hopeful the US congress would pass the bill, especially it would only be two months before the elections. He is also Baguio-Benguet Chapter commander of the Veterans Federation of the Philippines.

While Adevoso kept saying the government would do its best to alleviate the plight of war heroes, he got a battery of questions and complaints from veterans and widows who asserted an open forum long after the commemorative program was adjourned. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorthernDispatch)

Human rights lawyer urges MP town ABC prexy’s arrest

August 19, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — A human rights lawyer urges the head of the Philippine National Police Regional Office in the Cordillera (PRO-COR) to cause the immediate arrest and prosecution of an official of Mountain Province identified to be involved in the killing of a human rights worker.

Lawyer Jose Mencio Molintas said that Mateo or Mathew Fanao was charged of a heinous crime 15 years ago and managed to remain at large and at present a public official continuously evading prosecution.

Molintas was recently appointed as member of the Expert Mechanisms on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN-HRC).

In a letter he sent last week to Cordillera Police Chief Senior Superintendent Eugene Gabriel Martin, Molintas said Fanao is a co-accused in the killing of human rights worker Christopher L. Batan in February 1993 in Betwagan, Sadanga, Mountain Province. A warrant of arrest for Fanao was issued by a Regional Trial Court here but until now it has not been served, according to reliable sources.

Freely roaming around?

“Fanao is reportedly roaming freely at Betwagan, Sadanga and was even elected as Barangay Captain and now president of the Association of Barangay Captains (in Sadanga) sitting as councilor,” added Molintas in his letter which was also sent to Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Ronaldo Puno.

Other sources claimed that Fanao is attending Sangguniang Bayan meetings and draws his salary in the past. Nordis tried to reach both the Sadanga mayor and the vice-mayor through text messaging to verify the allegations but did not get any response.

According to other sources, including those from the DILG-CAR, Fanao was also elected as vice-president of the Mountain Province federation of the Association of Barangay Captains. He has never been arrested by the PNP despite a warrant of arrest issued by a judge from a regional trial court (RTC) here.

Case history

The history of the case shows Batan and two companions went to Betwagan in 1993 to document human rights violation committed under the administration of Pres. Ferdinand Marcos but were sprayed with bullets by five members of the para-military CAFGU.

Only Batan was killed during the said shooting while his two companions survived and became witnesses. The case was transferred to this city when a conflict erupted between the accused Betwagan tribe and the victim’s Lias (Barlig) tribe. Two of the co-accused were arrested and convicted afterwards.

Last year, one co-accused surrendered while Fanao and his remaining companion remain at-large.

Nordis learned from Molintas that a brother of the victim approached the regional director of the DILG to seek assistance for the arrest and prosecution of Fanao but he was orally informed that the said office could not act on the issue and instead recommended the assistance of the PNP.

Chief Senior Superintendent and PNP provincial director Martin said that Fanao could not be located in the area.

“We sent copies of his (Fanao) warrant of arrest to all the stations Cordillera-wide for their appropriate actions,” Martin said when asked of the PNP’s next move in serving the arrest warrant issued for Fanao. # Arthur L. Allad-iw(NorthernDispatch)

Indigenous youth converge to celebrate IP Day 2008

August 19, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — In celebration of the 14th World’s Indigenous Peoples Day, more than 150 indigenous youth of the Cordillera gathered to learn, understand, unite and commit in promoting the rights of indigenous peoples (IPs) on August 9 at the Multi-Purpose Hall of the University of the Philippines Baguio, Philippines.


Photo courtesy of Joy Siapno

The Asia Pacific Indigenous Youth Network (APIYN) organized the event with the support of various local youth organizations that includes the Progressive Igorots for Social Action (Pigsa), Pinatud, Program for Indigenous Culture-Pagawisan Tako Am-in, Salidummay-University of Cordillera and Benguet State University, Cordillera Cultural Performing Group-Saint Louis University, University of the Philippines Baguio University Student Council-Indigenous Peoples Desk, Student Parliament-Baguio Central University, Anakbayan-Kordilyera, Dap-ayan ti Kultura iti Kordilyera (DKK) and Cordillera Youth Center.

In the afternoon was a Forum-Workshop on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN DRIP). Lawyer Jose M. Molintas, an Ibaloi, member of the UN Expert Mechanism on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, discussed the importance of the UN DRIP to IPs and what this declaration covers regarding the protection of rights of IPs.

Jennifer Awingan, a Kalinga, coordinator of APIYN, imparted the situation of Indigenous Peoples of the Cordillera and of the world in general and challenged the indigenous youth to act regarding the issues faced by the IPs.

After the inputs, a workshop was held to make a plan of action as an output of the celebration. A unity statement was made and a coordinating body was formed to ensure the monitoring and implementation of the plans. This includes capacity building on the strengthening of indigenous youth organizations through cross-learning between and among indigenous youth on various topics that affect IPs, youth-elders dialogs and many more.

The body also united in taking actions on IP issues and concerns at local, national and international levels. As part of the plan, a resolution was seated asking the City Government of Baguio to declare August 9 as an official red-letter-day and allocate resources for its celebration.

“Lambakan” (cultural night) followed in the evening. Indigenous music and gongs, community dances and chants, trivias on IP issues and solidarity messages filled the occasion. It also became a cross-learning experience among indigenous youth from different tribes of the Cordillera. Advocate groups such as National Union of Students in the Philippines (NUSP), College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), Maryknoll Sanctuary Choir and Agi Band delivered solidarity messages and rendered meaningful cultural performances. # Keidy Transfiguracion(NorthernDispatch)

Not guilty! — Afable

August 19, 2008


RP’S OLDEST LIBEL “VICTIM”! Perhaps the oldest journalist in the Philippines facing libel, 91 year-old journalist Cecille Afable (middle) walks with with her cane and is assisted by lawyer Joris Dacawi (right) and Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) Chairman Pablito Sanidad (back of Afable) out from the Regional Trial Court Branch 5 on August 14 morning after pleading not guilty of libel charges lodged by Atty. Leticia Clemente. Photo courtesy of Ace Alegre(NorthernDispatch)

Women condemn ‘Vitameal’

August 19, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — A new feeding program has come to provinces in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) that aims to to correct any nutrient deficiencies and thereby promote healthy growth and development. A women’s group, however, criticized it.

Named “Vitameal,” it is supposedly a new hope for nutritionally challenged children in the Cordilleras. This school year, provinces in CAR started receiving their rations of Vitameal thru day care and Grade One pupils.

At the Innabuyog regional council meet last August 15, members from all around the region had raised their qualms about the product.

“Mapait. Medyo sweet and sour. Lasang betsin. Ayaw kainin ng mga bata, kaya kailangan pa naming gumastos para sa ihahalo namin para kainin nila,” (It tastes bitter, with a hint of sweet and sour and it also tastes of monosodium glutamate. The children do not like it. We have to buy additional ingredients for them to eat it) said Estrell Balutoc of Innabuyog – Abra

Carol Bagyan of Innabuyog – Kalinga said, “Palitan kaming mga magulang ng pagluto. Pakukuluan namin at hahaluan ng iba-ibang sangkap.” (Paarents take turns cooking. We boil it and add in different ingredients)

Parents are enforced to add supplemental ingredients to the Vitameal since children do not seem to favor its taste. “Nagdadagdag pa kami ng malagkit, asukal, tsokolate, para kainin ng mga bata yung Vitameal,” (We have to add in glutinous rice, sugar, cocoa, just so the kids would eat this Vitameal”) added Bagyan.

Parents are suspicious of this Vitameal program as the servings given to the children were without a decent packaging. Not even a label for parents to be informed of its ingredients. “Natatakot kami at baka may GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) iyan.” (We fear it may contain GMOs) said Zenaida Hangdaan of Innabuyog – Ifugao

Parents also claimed that upon asking the teachers in charge of the Vitameal’s distribution of its ingredients and the nutrients that their children should be able to absorb from it, the teachers responded that they did not know exactly what this contain.

“The whole nation is stricken by hunger and poverty whether Malacañang accepts it or not” says Innabuyog Chairperson Vernie Yocogan- Diano.

“Her hunger mitigation programs are actually just dole outs that attempt to sugarcoat the worsening poverty. Her feeding program does not even reach the poorest of the poor, who are in most need of help. This is just another opportunity for graft and corruption to take place,” she added.

Innabuyog states that what should be pursued are long-term policies toward genuine agrarian reform and agricultural development, job creation and a national policy for health care and education. # Myko Chiong(NorthernDispatch)

Pagtaas ng presyo ng gasolina, inugat ng IBON, Piston

August 19, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — “Hindi tayo nauubusan ng pamamaraan para sa tumataas na presyo ng langis, ang may problema lamang ay ang hindi sensitibong pamahalaan.”

Ito ang ipinahayag ni Mandy Felicia, pangulo ng pool of speakers ng IBON Foundation sa Forum ng Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (Piston) noong Agosto 14, sa Sangkabalayan Hall ng Immaculate Conception Cathedral dito.

Idiniin ni Felicia na ang isyu tungkol sa langis ay hindi lamang isyu ng sektor ng transportasyon kundi isyu ng bawat Pilipino.

“Lahat ay gumagastos, lahat ay apektado,” aniya. Bago simulan ang pagsasabi ng iba’t ibang solusyon, inilahad muna ni Felicia ang dahilan kung bakit tumataas ang presyo ng langis.

Iba-ibang dahilan

Sinasabi ng gobyerno na mayroon tayong matinding pangangailangan at kakulangan sa langis kaya tumataas ang presyo nito.

Isang dahilan ay ang giyera na umiiral sa Gitnang-Silangan, ayon sa mga tagapagsalita ng gobyerno. Noong Disyembre nang nakaraang taon ang presyo ng langis mula sa krudo ng Dubai na ating inaangkat ay $100 bawat bariles.

Noong Enero ng taong ito ay naganap ang pinakamataas na pagtaas ng presyo ng langis sa kasaysayan na umaabot sa $217 bawat barrel.

Mas malalim na pagtingin

Subali’t sinabi ni Felicia na sa tingin ng mga siyentista, mayroon namang 1.3 milyong bariles na reserba ng langis para paandarin ang lahat ng sasakyan at makinarya sa buong daigdig sa susunod na 42 taon.

Isa pa, ayon sa datos mula sa International Energy Association(IEA), mas marami namang suplay kaysa sa pangangailangan. Kung minsan pumapantay ang suplay sa pangangailangan pero hindi pa nito nalalagpasan ang suplay kahit kailan, ayon kay Felicia.

Ang Saudi Arabia ang may pinakamalaking reserba ng langis na higit sa 56 %. Tinatayang 2 % naman ang bahagi ng Estados Unidos. Maaari aniya na kaya pinag-iinitan ng Estados Unidos ang Gitnang-Silangan dahil sa paghahangad na makuha ang reserba ng langis sa naturang lugar.

Hindi ang mga may-ari ng pinakamalalaking reserba ng langis ang kumikita sa produkto dahil pinakamaliit ang kanilang bahagi sa pagrerepina nito. Hawak ng transnational companies(TNCs) ang pamilihan.

Dahil TNCs ang may hawak ng merkado, sila rin ang nagtatakda ng presyo.

“Paano sila ngayon malulugi kung sa isang araw ay bilyon ang kanilang kinikita,” dagdag pa ni Felicia.

Balik-kasaysayan

Noong 1992, nilagdaan ni dating Pangulong Fidel V. Ramos ang Republic Act 7638 para maging pribado ang kumpanyang Petron. Dating pag-aari ito ng pamahalaan at mayroong basehan ang ibang mga kumpanya ng gasolina at langis upang hindi masyadong taasan ang presyo. Ngayon at pribado na ito, hindi na kontrolado ang pagtaas ng presyo.

Kapalit ng Republic Act (RA) 8180 o ang oil deregulation law na idineklara noong 1994 ay ang pangako ng International Monetary Fund (IMF) na pautang ng $600 para sa bansa. Subali’t naideklara naman itong hindi ayon sa Konstitusyon ayon sa Supreme Court. Pinalitan ito ng RA 8749 na halos wala rin namang ipinagkaiba sa nilalaman.

Labindalawang taon matapos ang unang oil deregulation law, dominado pa rin ng Big Three TNCs (Dambuhalang Tatlong Kumpanya) o ng Shell, Caltex at Petron ang lokal na industriya at pamilihan ng langis.

Ayon naman kay Pangulong Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo na senador pa lamang noon, Free Market (Malayang kalakalan) ang ikabubuti ng oil deregulation law dahil kung mas maraming kumpetisyon, mas mumura ang presyo.

Subali’t kabaligtaran ang nangyari dahil mas madali na para sa mga TNC’s ang pagmamanipula sa pamilihan dahil nga wala kahit isang kumpanya ng langis ang kontrolado ng pamahalaan. Halos 400% ang kinkita ng mga ito sa patuloy na pagtaas ng presyo.

Nagayon sa 12 % na Value Added Tax (VAT) sa mga petrolyo, maging ang pamahalaan ay kumikita rito.

Ayon kay Felicia, ang ugat ng pagtaas ng presyo ng langis ay ang sabwatan ng dayuhang korporasyon ng langis (TNCs) at ng gobyernong Arroyo.

Mga pamamaraan

Marami namang maaaring solusyon sa mga problemang ito ayon pa kay Felicia. Ilan sa mga ito ay ang alisin ang RVAT; ibasura ang batas sa deregulasyon; kontrolin ang presyo; pagrolbak sa presyo ng langis; bawiin ang Petron; at pagsasabansa bilang pangmatagalang alternatibo.

Puwede rin naman, aniya, na mag-import tayo ng langis sa ibang bansa at palitan natin ng mga produktong pang-agrikultura. Sa gayon, kahit papaano, makakahinga ang bawat Pilipino sa pagdurusang dulot ng pagtaas ng presyo ng langis at iba pang produkto. # Maria Lalaine Gulan(NorthernDispatch)

Advocate’s Overview: The Mindanao war

August 19, 2008

By ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW

The newly erupted skirmishes between the government troops and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Mindanao reportedly made homeless at least some 160,000 civilians from 56 villages. The escaping civilians took refuge among their relatives in other parts of Mindanao away from the conflict or sought solace in 33 evacuation centers.

Among the victims was Maryjane Blaza whose house in Dualing, Aleosan, North Cotabato was destroyed by the war between the MILF and government troops. The wanton destruction of properties are registered from other towns of Midsayap and Kidapawan.

As these civilians are now separated from their livelihood in their villages, their immediate sustenance is an urgent need they now face. Fortunately, the United Nations World Food Program reportedly transported food for the said victims. If this war takes longer – as it seems the root cause is not addressed – these internal refugees would suffer more as a consequence and relief is just a tactical remedy.

The ugly face of war reveals the present reality in Mindanao. The victims are mainly civilians. Various groups’ growing call for genuine peace in that war-torn part of the country is very timely.

August 12 is set by the United Nations as the day for International Humanitarian Law (IHL). In the various UN conventions and declarations under IHL, particularly Protocol 2, it is mandated that warring parties shall spare and respect unarmed civilians. War should not put the civilians in peril.

Reports from Mindanao showed that civilian villages were turned into battlegrounds by both parties. Even war materials banned by the IHL were reportedly used by the warring parties. As a consequence, civilian lives and the properties they had raised and labored for years – are not only in danger but totally destroyed. Nobody can describe their plight better than the people themselves, like Mrs. Blaza, a victim of this conflict and not of their own doing.

This armed conflict has violently wrenched the civilians from their main and even maybe their only source of livelihood and their communities’ cultural and spiritual integrity. They are traumatized by the conflict. Such is the degree of the collective violation of their rights – especially the right to have peace, as peace is now made elusive by the on-going war.

The call by various sectors for the MILF and government to stop the war and instead take the issues to the negotiating table must be supported with urgency by both warring parties and all of society. In the talks for lasting peace in Mindanao, any violation of the IHL should be monitored and investigated. The people’s participation must be considered in the negotiation as they too are stakeholders. The civilians cannot just leave the issues in the hands of the government and the MILF. A negotiated settlement between the government and the MILF will not mean peace for all stakeholders. The people should chart their destiny through their active participation in settling the issues of war.

As an advocate of indigenous peoples rights, I was expecting that the issues on the ancestral domains of the Lumad, the indigenous peoples in Mindanao, be immediately recognized as such is mandated by the Constitution and the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act. As the government granted or defined the ancestral domain for the Bangsa Juridical Entity in Mindanao albeit being legally questionable under the government’s fundamental law, there is a double treatment they (government) had with the Lumad. Do the Lumad also need to take up arms before a negotiated settlement of their rights to their domain be recognized and respected? #(NorthernDispatch)

Economics and Society 101: If mining is not the choice, what is?

August 19, 2008

By ARTHUR BOQUIREN

This column welcomes the formation of the Benguet Mining Alert and Action Network or BMAAN. Nordis reported that 156 representatives from the 13 municipalities of Benguet gathered August 7 and agreed to unite against large-scale destructive mining.

There is silence with regard to small scale mining but that is alright because what is more important is to unite against a principal enemy. Indeed Benguet ought to organize itself as a strong lobby group against large-scale mining. The lobby and advocacy group must go further and enlist local officials and the citizenry in the fight.

It is easy to argue that other Philippine provinces have developed far better than Benguet even without mining in their communities. Municipalities without mining have performed just as good (for precision: rephrase “just as good” to “just as bad”) if not better compared to the municipalities with mining.

Large-scale mining only creates a situation that profits are extracted from the communities for multinational companies and big Filipino capitalists to enjoy. The wastes, mine tailings, and environmental damage are left behind. Communities suffer in the long run for short-term and extremely minuscule gains.

Mined-out municipalities become less flexible to various development options and the long-term negative impact of mining on development persists even after the mining companies have already left for several years.

If you know that a certain area has been mined out, would you want to locate your residence, schools, factories, and offices there? Would agriculture remain profitable as mining disturbs also the water tables? Of course not.

Mining actually reduces the development alternatives open to communities. Land becomes inflexible for multiple uses and mining limits the development of the municipalities in the long run.

We are not even including the “intangibles” in our equation. What about our rivers? Surely even if mine wastes are not toxic, the wastes excreted through the waterways have a negative impact on biodiversity. Many of the waste, however, are toxic and this fact exacerbates the environmental damage.

The mine tailings can turn our waterways murky and even this alone has a negative impact on biodiversity in our waterways. Instead of being a source of food like fish, our waterways become a source of poison. In certain instances, fish that are known to be highly tolerant to heavy metals survive, but the heavy metals in the fish accumulate in the bodies of humans who eat them. Thus, do not trust too much the fishponds that are put up by mining companies in their mining areas. There is even no evidence that the fishponds are commercially viable.

Benguet has large-scale mining for close to a hundred years now. Are we even close to the development level of the municipalities in the first world given that multinational companies have profit from Benguet gold? Do we see many Ibalois and Kankanaeys enjoying themselves first class ala the rich people of Makati? There may be a handful but they are not in droves.

Further, do we see mining communities that have really developed over time? None.

Mining is like rape. It extracts out the beauty of the land, leaving the victim haggard, desecrated, and violated. Depending on the severity of the violence of the rape or the violence committed during the rape, the victim can become ugly.

Thus, the people of Benguet must look for development alternatives other than mining. The long-term solution to the development ills of our country probably lies in the elimination of semi-feudal and multinational oppression. In the interim, however, there can be real development as long as we are able and willing to think outside the box.

Several alternatives to mining have already been offered: sustainable low-input agriculture or vegetable production, agroforestry, maintenance of the Cordillera forest and advancements of payments for environmental services, and the like. These are even the traditional options. The technologies available in the 20th century should imply more options and alternatives. #

(The writer maintains a blog at http://www.geocities.com/arturoboquiren. Comments can be coursed through http://www.nordis.net, artboquiren2040@yahoo.com, and +63927-536-8431)(NorthernDispatch)

From Under This Hat: Ninety years

August 19, 2008

By KATHLEEN T. OKUBO

If one is ninety years old or above in the Cordillera, it means one has experienced how it was when clans and clannish communities in these mountains were still adapting to the impositions of the conquering American colonial rule. That would include blatant violations of all the provisions of the newly promulgated United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The time when the native farmers and ranchers of Baguio were trying to save their farms and ranches from the expropriation or appropriation of the colonial rulers for the development of the City. To anyone, indigenous or otherwise, the loss without due process or just compensation of one’s home lot, established and community recognized land property is extremely painful. Elders, philosophers, noted social scientists, heroes and martyrs, in different ways have told us “Land is life”. Therefore the loss of land can also mean the loss of life.

In the late 20s – 30’s, for the 90-year old that would be the time when the Japanese farmers dominated the brisk temperate vegetable industry in Baguio and La Trinidad, as well as the pine lumber industry, the building contractors in the city. The dominant Japanese businesses along Session Road. It was also the peak of the American government campaign for children to go to school- elementary, high school and college. It was also the time when Christian churches were on the campaign to draw Igorots into their fold. Then the outbreak and fight for independence through the second world war. The fear, the pain and horrors of war.

A 90-year old would have experienced the clash of cultures: the traditional indigenous practices v.a.v. the foreign church practices v.a.v. American colonial practices; the native population and the lowland-migrant population; the different tribal cultures migrating into the city. Nine decades of accumulated wisdom drawn from experience – lessons from mistakes and success – in different time frames has tempered the sights and recognition; sharpen judgement of what should be and should not be for the next generations.

In her more than 50 years of watching and growing with and documenting the world by writing and editing for the oldest existing community newspaper, national magazines and other publications, Mrs. Cecile C. Afable has been consistent to a fault on how the city should be – environmentally sound, healthy, free from gambling, hunger, graft and corruption. For this she has been known to stand up against anyone in the political leadership of the city and the national government. A journalist true to her chosen profession, she has eaten death threats for breakfast, stood fast for many a lost cause, tried to save a lot more souls than the church could and took the cudgels to be mother to the Baguio press to this day.

No one is above the law. At her age and all she has given and done for her city, for her people, her friends, etc. it is rather shameless that anyone would find it rewarding to sue her for being true to her chosen noble crusade of journalism. If anyone does, he would wittingly or unwittingly give a very good cause for press practitioners to unite. Not only in the name of the freedom of expression but simply because she is loved as a true blue documenter sharing her everyday discoveries and insights. Teaching, inspiring and entertaining her readers as a witty, spry, sharp, and nosy newspaper woman, a friend, a mother, grandmother and auntie for most of us in the Fourth Estate.#(NortehrnDispatch)

Statement: Intensify the struggle for self-determination! Fight Imperialist plunder and state terrorism!

August 19, 2008

By Cordillera Peoples Alliance

August 11, 2008

We mark the 2008 Indigenous Peoples Week or National Minority Week Celebration with greater challenges in our struggle for self determination and defense of our ancestral domain. We celebrate the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples with our achievements including the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), as we face the real condition of indigenous peoples under intense national oppression, exploitation and extreme poverty especially in the Philippines. National oppression of indigenous peoples in the Philippines worsened under the exploitative and fascist regime of the fake and extremely-isolated president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. In our struggle, we draw lessons from our historic experience. In our celebration this year, we declare to intensify our struggles against imperialist plunder and state terrorism and consistently move for the ouster of GMA.

Greater hunger, graver human rights violations

As Filipinos, indigenous peoples are also victims of the national political and economic crisis. In fact, they bear heavier the impact of the national crisis aggravated by the policies and programs of the illegitimate regime. We are poorer and hungrier more than ever as imperialist globalization takes its toll on the basic survival needs of the people, such as food and social services. Government’s subservience to imperialist globalization steadily increased our dependence to rice imports over the years, making local markets vulnerable to speculations by international and local rice cartels.

Oil prices took a P3/liter hike for the 20th round this year, making the pump price of oil four times more expensive than its price in July 2001 when GMA took office, or from P14.50/L to P58.94/L, or a 306% increase. Minimum daily wage in the Cordillera region for non-agriculture workers is pegged at only P250, yet the cost of living for an ordinary family to survive decently is P830. Unemployment now reached 16 million or 28% of the total labor force. The number of poor Filipinos increased by 3.8 million between 2003 to 2008, or from 23.8 million to 27. 6 million. Inflation hit 11.4 percent in June 2008, the highest in 14 years.

The human rights situation is at its worst, with the regime being the perpetrator under its policy of political killings, the Oplan Bantay Laya, and the recent Anti-Terrorism Act. Since GMA assumed presidency, there are over 900 victims of extra-judicial killings and 193 victims enforced disappearances. Just before her eighth State of the Nation Address (SONA), 3 indigenous farmer-hunters were again summarily executed in Kalinga and Abra provinces. Organizations and individuals critical of the regime, especially those asserting their basic individual and collective rights were killed.

Some of the most committed leaders of the legitimate national peoples movement and Cordillera peoples’ movement were killed and assassinated leaving children, families, clans, tribes and communities orphaned and deprived of having a father, a mother, a sister or brother, leader and peacepact-holder, like the families of Markus Bangit, Alyce Claver, and Albert Terredaño. Justice remains elusive, as the Arroyo government which rules under de factor Martial Law does not show any sincerity in pursuing this.

Causing massive human rights violations is the heightened militarization and terrorism by the AFP in indigenous peoples’ territories especially in areas with strong struggles against large-mining and imperialist plunder. Laws and policies such as the Mining Act of 1995, National Minerals Policy, Anti-Terrorism Act, OBL and political killings are deliberate and systematic violation of indigenous peoples rights and human rights, which have been unprecedented under the Arroyo regime.

Ethnocide in Imperialist Globalization

As indigenous peoples, national oppression adds to the brunt we bear on top of the national political and economic crisis. Our inherent collective human rights are systematically violated, manifested by the worsened cases of development aggression, heavy militarization of indigenous communities; threats, harassment and extra-judicial killings of indigenous peoples asserting their democratic rights. Records from the Indigenous Peoples Rights Monitor show that since GMA assumed presidency in 2001, there have been 120 documented cases of IP killings in the country, with 33 of the cases coming from the Cordillera region. The fascist regime has done nothing but heighten ethnocide in its desperation to comply with unconditional subservience to the imperialist US and monopoly capitalists.

Eighteen of government’s priority mining projects are located in indigenous territories, five of which are in the Cordillera region. It is deplorable to note that big local and transnational mining companies’ applications including government treat our ancestral lands and territories as a resource base for plunder and extraction of profit while sacrificing IPs.

To further revitalize and prioritize the plunder and destruction of our ancestral territories there are 125 pending mining applications in the Cordillera covering 1.2 million hectares of the region’s total land area, or 66% of its 1.8 million hectares. Nine (9) Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSA) and four (4) Exploration Permit Applications (EXPAs) were approved without the genuine free, prior, informed consent (FPIC) of the affected communities. The affected communities do not even know of such MPSAs approved with the connivance of NCIP only to be shocked when mining companies are already going into their territories.

The GMA administration has twisted the definition of our opposition to destructive projects and the assertion of our legitimate rights and the right to survive as “terrorism,” making us open targets to extra-judicial killings and military terrorism. The regime has massively militarized indigenous communities to break community opposition to destructive projects and repress the communities. Militarization of indigenous communities include physical basing of the Philippine Army in ancestral territories and houses, regular military operations such as unwarranted searches of houses, imposed food blockades, curfews, and other restrictions.

The Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) maliciously and unjustly branded communities and legitimate organizations like the Cordillera Peoples Alliance and its members as fronts of the revolutionary CPP-NPA-NDF, making them open targets to military attacks, vulnerable not only to harassment but to extra-judicial killings.

Such is the case of the Binongan indigenous peoples in Baay Licuan, Abra, who are presently opposing Canadian mining company Olympus Pacific Minerals. Having won an initial triumph in their struggle with the suspension of its drilling, and sustaining their collective stand for Olympus to get out of their ancestral domain, the 41st IB, 503rd and 502nd Reconnaissance and Composite Coys were deployed in the communities after the other. Community leaders, along with CPA and its Abra chapter KASTAN, were tagged as NPA supporters and NPA fronts. Military terror is being sown to break the communities’ unity and solidarity. In Conner, Apayao, communities are not giving up the fight against Anglo American subsidiary Cordillera Exploration, and now, Australian mining company OceanaGold which has a notorious record of human rights violations in Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya. Leaders of the local organization SAPO were harassed and death threats continue.

The gravest instance this year is the havoc in Tubo, southern Abra, due to the month-long bombings and intense military operations of the 50th Infantry Battalion starting March 21, 2008, leaving one whole community of the Maeng tribe in deep trauma, fear and terror. The area has been targeted for large mining but was consistently opposed by the people as early as the 1920s. The regime has specifically eyed the Cordillera as a priority area for OBL 2, thus hastening the smooth entry of applications and operations by securing the areas through militarization.

The extra-judicial killings of indigenous farmer-hunters in the Cordillera by the AFP and PNP has been rampant under the Arroyo regime: Johnny Camareg in 2001, Mt. Province (killed by elements of the 22nd Special Forces Company, 3rd Special Forces Battalion), Etfew Chadyaas in 2003, Mt. Province (killed by elements of the 54th IB under Lt. Sia-ed), Efren Agsayang,a 19 year old deaf-mute from Mankayan, Benguet killed by elements of the provincial PNP; Victor Balais in Pinukpuk, Kalinga (slain by elements 77th IB), Bernabe Bangguey (slain by elements 41st IB) and Gavino Lawagey (Abra) all in 2005-all accused to be members of the New People’s Army, and this year, Mariano Galisen (March 2008, killed by elements of the 50th IB) in Tubo, Abra; Rocky Aboli and Rey Logao in Kalinga last April and June, both killed by elements of the 21st and 77th IBs.

Victories in the face of worsened national oppression

While this might be the dismal state of indigenous peoples in the country and the Cordillera, we cite a few of the many significant victories in the struggle for indigenous peoples’ rights that have a strategic impact to the wider movement for people’s democratic rights.

The Baay Licuan communities thru BALITOK have successfully hosted the 24th Cordillera Day celebration with big mobilization last April 23 and 24 and have drawn in concrete support from other regions and abroad in their local struggle against large mines and militarization, as they continue to strengthen their resolve as a community. In Tubo, the communities did not succumb to the terror inflicted on them. Instead, they continue to strengthen themselves as they brace for more situations that challenge their collective opposition to the unending plunder interests of State and foreign companies. In Brgy. Amtwagan, resolutions were passed embodying their stand against large mines and militarization, strongly urging the municipal and provincial governments to support these. Likewise, communities in other parts of the Cordillera remain vigilant against the entry of large mines.

More recently in Apayao, SAPO has affiliated with the Cordillera Peoples Alliance during its first general assembly this July, making it the 196th member organization since the 9th Congress in December 2006. In time, SAPO will grow to comprehensively address burning issues in the province, aside from presently battling foreign companies’ attempts to mine indigenous communities in Conner. In August 7, two days before the International IP Day, mining affected and threatened communities all over Benguet together with their local government officials and advocates affirmed their unity against the entry and operation of large mines and put up the Benguet Mining Action Alert Network (BMAAN) to strengthen their unity and action.

Internationally, we gained concrete ground with the passage of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which the CPA actively lobbied for since 1985. This victory is one we share with the rest of the world’s indigenous peoples. The challenge now is the declaration’s implementation, which we should not lose sight of but fervently pursue so that its passage is meaningful to indigenous peoples. In response, CPA co-organized and hosted the Asia Workshop for the UNDRIP Implementation. In the international anti-imperialist united front, the Cordillera Peoples Alliance served as the lead organization of Study Commission No. 10 on the Rights of indigenous peoples, national minorities and nationalities for self-determination, and decolonization against discrimination, racism, and national oppression by imperialism and local reaction of the International League of Peoples Struggles (ILPS). It convened the international workshop on this concern in the ILPS’ Third International Assembly in Hong Kong.

Continuing militant resistance

Cordillera indigenous peoples have a history of militant and armed resistance for the defense of land and life, as shown in the successful anti-Chico dams and anti-CRC struggles during the US-Marcos dictatorship. To date, with the aggressive onslaught of imperialist plunder and exploitation in the Cordillera, Cordillera IPs are still collectively fighting and waging militant resistance as we achieve more victories in our struggle for self determination and right to ancestral domain.

Our notable, small but meaningful victories are a slap to the terrorist regime’s face. GMA has nobody but herself and the government to blame for her plunging popularity ratings, extreme poverty and unbearable socio-economic crisis in the country and national oppression of indigenous peoples. We call for her ouster as part and parcel of advancing our struggle for self determination. We call for GMA’s ouster being part of the marginalized citizenry the regime so strongly exploits and represses, and in support to the clamor of the democratic sectors.

Scrap the Mining Act of the 1995! Stop militarization and military terrorism in indigenous communities!

Assert our right to self determination! Enough of Mining and Imperialist Plunder! Enough of GMA! #(NorthernDispatch)

Women’s Front: The UNDRIP in the IP women’s world

August 19, 2008

By INNABUYOG-GABRIELA

Nature and culture are the two pillars that define the lives of the indigenous peoples all over the world. Nature is their wealth and culture their identity. Nature has given the indigenous peoples the land, food, shelter, as well as their medicine. Centuries have passed, the indigenous peoples were able to maintain their heritage that makes them distinct from the growing modernity.

With today’s modern technology and the gaining popularity of consumerism, nature is in danger. While the rest of the world live in material convenience, the indigenous people’s home is threatened.

Imperialism caters to the growing demand of consumers and the multi-national corporation’s greed, are factors of the abuse and destruction of nature to extract its resources. Mining, logging, and even industrialization contribute to the devastation of the environment which the IP call home.

With the destruction and the privatization of nature, a vital part of the IP life is most affected. Food and food resources are affected.

In the countryside of Thailand, due to large mining operation rice fields are dwindling and bodies of water contaminated with high amounts of cyanide. Immediately, rice crop is trimmed down and their aquatic resources affected as well.

As a catch basin of several waters in Asia, Bangladesh used to be fertile. At present, due to the construction of mega-dams in countries like China, the flow of water towards Bangladesh and its irrigation in the rice fields are affected.

Large coal mining has poisoned the soil making it impossible to till.

In the Philippines, industries and mining are accompanied with militarization in the countryside. Projects in the Philippines are initiated with the stationing of armed military forces to antagonize and pacify any resistance from residents.

In the recent months, we are informed about the militarization in a town in Abra, Philippines which resulted in the bombardment of communities, including rice fields, leaving the locals without food sources.

With the entry of large corporations in these IP villages to mine or to log, residents are somehow forced to leave their homes. The degradation of their environment or the forced evacuation are resulting from the large corporate operations. With no other jobs to rely on and no nature at hand to depend upon, the relocation of IPs also means ethnocide.

They are removed from their homes which provided them the resources to build their houses and the land and water that provide them food. With this, indigenous women and children suffer most. They are most vulnerable. Wives, with their husbands, are in dire situation of having to find shelter and alternative sources for food. Children are stripped away from the environment that should have nourished them like the generations before them.

Today, the indigenous peoples have a safety net to fall on. After decades of lobbying, the United Nations finally adopted the new laws suited for the protection of the indigenous people from exploitation. The United nations Declaration on the rights of the Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) has provisions to respect, protect and preserve the unique culture and the special needs of the indigenous peoples. As of Article 26 of the UNDRIP states, the indigenous peoples have the right to land, territory and its resources. And as follows, the right to the development of this land however the IP group pleases.

From the recent Asia Action Plan for the Promotion and Implementation of UNDRIP, programs were laid down for the continuity and assurance of the implementation of the UNDRIP. Indigenous women, can and should play a big role in this programs.

IP women can take part in making sure that new information is passed within their community as well as reach out to other IP groups. IP women can empower themselves through more knowledge and sharing it with their peers. IP women can also take part in the consultations within their communities as to how to implement projects efficiently.

As women, they can also have the power to bind and strengthen the indigenous community. Their courage is also resilient to be used to lobby for the passing of laws for the protection of plants and other resources located in their territories. A woman’s understanding of the struggle to provide for their families’ survival gives a better voice in this arena. IP women can also take part on the studies on their lands and territories and how large economic development on IP lands.

The indigenous peoples in these lands are the only ones sensitive enough to know what shall remain enough to conserve their territories. IP women are also essential in ensuring that the State provides them the necessary subsidy to develop their communities. The UNDRIP says that States have the responsibility in providing the IP communities financial and technical assistance to develop their land.

As women in the community, they are also endowed with the responsibility to remain watchdogs of the exploitation and neglect of the implementation of the UNDRIP. Over the course of history of the indigenous peoples, the women in the IP community are known to be at the forefront of protest and mobilizations against large destructive corporations.

IP women in the Cordillera remain vigilant against the abuses of the outside community against them. Large dams and mining corporations were once faced by Cordillera women. In other parts of the world, the case is the same as IP women braved large equipments to battle large company aggression. Their bodies might be weaker than those of men, but sure enough, their voice and courage surpass the limitations they are given.

Unfortunately, these laws are still susceptible to abuse or neglect. To ensure the continuous implementation of these laws, each one in the IP community has to take on the task of the continuity of the implementation of these laws. Indigenous women have an equal share of this responsibility.

Armed with provisions from the UNDRIP, IP women now can assert themselves legally as rightful owners of their ancestral domain along with their families. It is easier to assert their rights on the land and its resources. Mothers are no longer burdened with the worry of losing the land to cultivate food for their children. Children can continue inheriting the richness of the nature and their culture. Armed with the provisions of the UNDRIP and the drive for self-determination, IP women with the rest of the IP community is equipped for the preservation of their culture. #(NorthernDispatch)


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 54 other followers