Probe into rights violations in Tampakan mining site pushed

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Saturday, March 17, 2012


OFFICIALS from the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) should look into the alleged increase of rights abuses in communities in Tampakan, South Cotabato, where the country’s largest mining venture is located.

Michael Reckordt, executive director of German think tank Philippinenbuero, voiced out the concern on Saturday after noting the worsening rights situation in the municipality.

“Compared to my last visit in the Tampakan mining area in 2010, the situation got even worse. The whole conflict turns more and more violent,” he said, adding the study group documented conflicts in mining communities in Cordillera and Mindanao.

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Reports reaching non-government Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) show that communities in Tampakan had complained of the continued presence of military groups that forces them leave to their ancestral domains.

The mining company plans to extract an estimated 13.5 million tons of copper and 15.8 million ounces of gold, with commercial operations eyed by 2016.

“In spite of the fact that they are against the entry of (SMI) Sagittarius Mines Inc.-Xstrata, we found that the mining company is still in the area—continuing exploration and even commit offensive acts against communities,” Daniel Arias, sites of struggle officer of ATM, said.

Last January 12, the application for environmental compliance certificate of SMI-Xstrata for its $5.9-billion project was denied by Environment Secretary Ramon Paje on the grounds of the provincial ban on open pit mining.

The House of Representatives Committee on Human Rights recently held a hearing to deliberate the different human rights issues in the country—one of which was the human rights case in a key mining area in Northern Luzon.

Last year, the CHR recommended the cancellation of mining permit of Australia-based OceanaGold Philippines Inc. (OGPI) for evicting an Ifugao community in Nueva Vizcaya without court permission in 2008.

ATM also noted that 72 percent of the extractive projects (mining and logging) located within ancestral domains operate without Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC).

“In light of the current move of the administration to craft a new mining executive order, it should be anchored on the principle of protecting, promoting and respecting the human rights of communities, which is a primordial duty of the state,” lawyer Mario Maderazo, lead convenor of the Tampakan Forum said.

Groups have long pushed for the junking of the Mining Act of 1995, which was blamed for massive displacement, human rights violations against indigenous people, and loss of livelihood in affected communities. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

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