Cordi mine areas militarized, multiple human rights violations documented

BAGUIO CITY — Heightened militarization in the boundaries of Kalinga, Mountain Province, Abra and Ilocos Sur led to various human rights violations of the collective rights of the residents in these areas, reported a human rights watchdog in the Cordillera region.

Exactly 49.92% or 55,140 hectares of the total 1,111,995 hectares mining applications registered at the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) is in the tri-boundaries of the said provinces. The Cordillera’s total land area is 1.8 million hectares.

The Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) claimed in its 2008 report that government troops’ bombings and shelling, cannons stationed and fired within communities, illegal searches of houses, and the military use of schools, medical, religious and other public places and private residences are the notable violations committed in the said areas.

Nineteen cases of illegal search and seizures affecting at least 108 persons were documented by the CHRA while three cases of bombing and shelling were documented with the same number of persons affected.

CHRA reported there are eight cases where military used of schools, medical, religious and other public places and private residences where at least 9,102 persons were affected.

It identified the 50th Infantry Batallion of the 503rd Brigade as involved in the said cases.

CHRA said that the headquarters of the 503rd Brigade was transferred from Narvacan, Ilocos Sur to Lagangilang, Abra “marking shift of military attention from Ilocos Region to the Cordillera.

Mine protector?

Some residents of villages in the boundaries of the four provinces claimed earlier that the military deployment is due to mining applications.

In the MGB mining tenement statistic report to MGB National Director Horacio Ramos, there were six applications for Financial or Technical Agreement in the boundaries of the four provinces which total to 480,492.775 hectares; five Exploration Permit Application (EXPA) which cover 65,657 hectares; and two Applications for Production Sharing Agreement (APSA) which cover 8,991 hectares.

All of these applications total to 555,140.775 hectares where 15 % of the area is found in Ilocos Sur while 85 % in Kalinga, Abra and Mountain province.

However, AFTA 3 by Newcrest Explorations that covers Abra and Kalinga, which was converted to EXPA, has no indicated area in hectares in the MGB document. Also AFTA 25 by Shipside, alleged subsidiary of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (Lepanto) covers 80,684.8712 hectares in the provinces of Ifugao, Mountain Province and Nueva Vizcaya.

Violating right to life

CHRA also reported four cases of extra-judicial killings which involved four persons.

The victims were all farmer/hunters from Abra and Kalinga and the incidents took place one quarter apart from its other, stated the CHRA report which was released on December 10, the 60th commemoration of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

CHRA also reported a sole case of enforced disappearance. Its report stated that Cordillera Peoples Alliance founding member James Moy Balao was forcibly taken by alleged military intelligence forces on September 17 near Camp Bado Dangwa in Tomay, La Trinidad, Benguet. The family and the CPA filed a petition for a Writ of Amparo in a Benguet Court but no decision has been issued by the court yet.

CHRA also reported that four cases of restriction or violent dispersal of mass action had happened in the city which covered at least 1,495 persons.

CHRA report pointed out that people worldwide are commemorating the 60th adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, human rights situation in the Philippines remains deplorable as the rights to life, liberty, security, self-determination and development are far from being fully realized.

It also demanded the demilitarization of the country sides. # Arthur L. Allad-iw(NorDis)

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