> Statement
>
> 27 September 2018
>
> No to large-scale mining in Benguet! Hold the BCI accountable for Itogon tragedy!
>
> The government’s abandonment of its people is stark clear when it helps propagate the heartless myth that the victims of the landslide in Ucab, Itogon, Benguet are at fault for the catastrophe. Putting blame on the victims and their families is inhumane and it must be corrected. We must scrutinize the situation and all events that led to the Itogon tragedy to find out who is at fault and therefore demand justice for the demise of our ‘kailians’. It is the large-scale mining operations of Benguet Corporation, Inc. that is accountable for the Itogon tragedy.
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> The victims of the Itogon landslides were mostly small scale miners and their families who did nothing but risk their lives everyday in backbreaking hard labor to bring home what little they could to support their families. Small scale mining is a traditional livelihood for indigenous peoples of Benguet. While it is true that there needs regulation, what right does the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu have to say that small-scale miners are at fault for the Itogon tragedy and therefore he will suspend all small scale mining activities. To put the blame on the victims, and not saying or doing anything about the real culprit, is rubbing insult to the insurmountable grief of those who have lost not only their family members but also their source of income.
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> Instead of standing with its constituency in times of crisis, the Duterte regime is even using this unfortunate event to advance the selfish interest of his cronies, the capitalist investors. We condemn this disgusting and detestable act of the government, turning its back from the people when they needed support.
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> Suspending all small scale mining activities will only result to the loss of livelihood of some 100,000 small-scale miners. It definitely will not solve the problem of disaster management. This will only be favourable to the foreign mining corporations who operate extensively and in a larger scale as they now have our mountains all to themselves, courtesy of the government led by Duterte. While the people suffer everyday with limited means to support their families, this government and their capitalist cronies lounges in millions plundered from our mountains.
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> To put a stop to small scale mining will not solve the threat of disaster during extreme weather conditions. According to former DENR Secretary Gina Lopez, typhoon, supertyphoon and earthquake are natural occurences and is expected for a country within the ring of fire and that mining is not fit. The disaster posed by these occurrences will always be there but what aggravates it is the question.
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> The history of mining in Benguet is a narrative of the plunder and extent of damage to our mountains by the large scale mining operation of the Benguet Corporation, Inc. (BCI) for almost a century. Its years of plundering the Ibaloi lands created a maze of tunnels underground thus making it more vulnerable to landslides and earthquakes. Worse, BCI encouraged small-scale miners to mine inside its tunnels for profit, through its small-scale mining contract scheme. What is even more enraging is that the mining firm just abandoned these mining tunnels and other environmental damages from their previous open-pit mining operation without efforts of rehabilitating it.
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> The government, instead of scrutinizing this fact and coming up with ways on how to ensure the safety of the people in times of disaster and holding the mining firm accountable for their abuse of our environment at the expense of our lives, is using this unfortunate event as a launching pad for selfish corporate deals. We have to be on guard for mining regulations that are sure to follow which, essentially, are anti-people.
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> It is the peoples’ lives and livelihood at stake. We have to unite and take decisive action to protect our environment and our rights as indigenous peoples. Hold Benguet Corporation, Inc. accountable for the tragedies in Itogon! Stop large-scale mining!#
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> For reference:
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> Santos Mero
>
> Vice Chairperson for Internal Affairs
>
> CORDILLERA PEOPLES ALLIANCE
> No. 55 Ferguson Road
> Baguio City 2600, Philippines
> Tel. No. (+63) 74 4229754
> Fax No. (+63) 74 4437159
> www.cpaphils.org