Indigenous groups hold protest over loss of lands to mining

By Abigail Kwok
First Posted 14:45:00 08/13/2008

MANILA, Philippines -- Indigenous groups in the country are in decline because of the government's alleged “militarist and aggressive economic policies,” a coalition of indigenous groups said on Wednesday.

Groups from Central Luzon, led by the Central Luzon Aeta Association (CLAA), marched to the Don Chino Roces Bridge (formerly Mendiola) to protest the alleged destruction of their ancestral lands due to mining.

“The urgent and critical situation of the indigenous people’s sector has brought us here,” said Nelson Mallari, secretary general of CLAA.

He added that members of the military allegedly harass, intimidate, and threaten locals in the area.

The group also criticized the agreement between Nihao Mineral Resources International and Geograce Philippines, headed by former Malacañang chief of staff Michael Defensor, and China’s Jiangxi Rare Earth and Rare Metals Tungsten Group Co. to conduct mining explorations in more than 30,000 hectares of land in Zambales.

Himpad Mangumalas, spokesman for the Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP), said the mining explorations would displace Aeta communities in the area.

“The Arroyo government is wiping out indigenous communities all over the country through its militarist and aggressive economic policies. Another reason is that the President does not intend to cease these injustices,” he said.

Groups urged the government to stop mining, where priority mining areas of the government have now reached to 63, or more than 108,000 hectares.

“The realization of the rights of national minorities to ancestral lands and self-determination will only be fully realized when the government is no longer bound by capitalist interests. Until then, the indigenous and Moro peoples’ rights is only second to the interests of companies interested in the resources found in ancestral domains,” Mangumalas said.

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