#WhyMining: When violence strikes at mining sites, who's at fault?
MANILA, Philippines - When violence strikes in communities that host mining operations, who's at fault? What are being done -- or not done -- to address the harming of or loss of lives at these far-flung areas?
These issues were debated during the October 26 series of Rappler-hosted #WhyMining conversation on Twitter.
Representatives from business, industry, religious groups, environment, non-government groups and active netizens engaged in the two-hour discussion from 4pm to 6pm, pointed fingers, stressed their own position and experiences regarding peace and order issues in mining sites and their host communities.
In the #WhyMining online conversation, 3 other key groups, aside from the mining firms, that are involved in these oftentimes bloody incidents include the indigenous peoples (IP) groups, the rebel group National Peoples' Army (NPA), and the military.
Flashpoints in various mining areas in the country involved the reported killings of indigenous tribes, as well as violent encounters between military and rebel groups. At stake in these conflicts are issues of environmental protection, economic interests, protection of ancestral land and human rights, among others.
Since some mining operations are on ancestral land where indigenous tribes live, violent incidents have involved members of this group.
Recent incidents in Tampakan in South Cotabato, Siocon in Zamboanga del Sur, and Mancayan in Benguet province involved the killings of respective members of the B'laan, Subanen, and Ibaloy and Kankanaey tribes. Their deaths have been linked to their supposed anti-mining stance.
Danny Jovica (@cr0atz), president of Philippine-based mining company Austra Asia Ore, stressed that mining firms are not at fault in these incidents, citing that miners are required to get the consent of the indigenous groups even before the extraction operations start.
The Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) coming from the tribal groups is part of the current system that recognizes the importance of social acceptability and participatory development process in this extractive industry, stressed Vince Borneo.
Borneo points out that mining companies that disregard this need for social acceptability eventually cause violent sparks.
Obtaining the FPIC of the tribes before miners explore and extract minerals in these ancestral lands actually involve a "lengthy and exhaustive process which starts at the ground level and works its way to... the National Commission for Indigenous People (who) finally certifies the FPIC"
Through consultations and formal meetings with the indigenous peoples themselves, the result--the FPIC--shows the deliberate support of mining in their ancestral land.
Philip Fullon, head of policy review and research at the Office of the Presidential Adviser for Environmental Protection, agreed that securing the FPIC takes a lot of process with all the necessary legal procedures to follow.
Don't think FPICs are just a matter of going to the chiefs hut and ask "oh can I mine there?" it's more complicated than that #WhyMining— Phillip Fullon(@pfullon) October 26, 2012
Bribery and railroading?
Issues of bribery and railroading during the FPIC consultation and decision process are prominent in the Twitter-based debate.
Asked about the case of Xstrata-SMI in Tampakan, South Cotabato with the B'laan tribe, mining employee Arnold Romero (@PinoyMinero) stressed that the company did not bribe its way into winning the nod of the B'laan people. He also said it's against the law and the principles of the company.
Xstrata, an investor in the Tampakan mine, is a global firm based in Switzerland and has pledged to its investors and shareholders that it is conducting responsible and transparent mining operations in countries where it operates.
On the issue of railroading of the FPIC process, El Nido tourism officer Arvin Acosta, shared a personal experience when he witnessed a public consultation being manipulated and due process ignored so the company can fasttrack compliance to rules.
Vested interests, internal conflicts
Major Jacob Obligado, Commander of the 10th civil military operations battalion of the 10th Infantry Division overseeing the Tampakan area, pointed out that land-grabbing issues dislocate indigenous people from their ancestral homes. This pushes the tribes to retaliate and protect their lands, resulting in conflicts.
land grabbing isolates d IPs in their ancestral land. IPs r then forced to bear arms 2 protect their lands. this is where conflict starts.— Jake Obligado (@jakeobligs) October 26, 2012
He also revealed the presence of non-IP groups that claim portions of land in the mining areas primarily due to vested and economic interests. This puts all the other stakeholders in a much more complex web of conflict.
we should first determine what causes conflicts in mining. primary is land grabbing, non-IPsclaim parcels of land in the mining areas.— Jake Obligado (@jakeobligs) October 26, 2012
@gemmabmendoza part of our taskss to protect economic activities nd investments. No matter what kind of industry that is, not only mining.— Jake Obligado (@jakeobligs) October 26, 2012
Mining sites are usually under various host communities since mineral deposits are not bound by territorial jurisdiction. This means that some miners deal with a number of indigenous communities for their FPIC.
Only the tribes the National Commission of Indigenous People (NCIP) formally recognizes are the eligible groups the mining firm deals with for their FPIC.
Jovica noted that this system puts a gaping hole on the comprehensiveness of the scope of the FPIC, neglecting those indigenous communities not recognized by NCIP and creates conflict among tribal groups.
With non-NCIP-recognized communities ignored and deprived of the "benefits" mining, violence erupts, noted Romero.
When these conflicts among tribes occur, the mining company is not at fault, according to Jovica.
Aside from the warring tribal groups, blogger Joshua Pielago also highlighted another source of security conflict: the presence of the New People's Army (NPA) in the area.
He cited the rebel group's demand for informal "revolutionary taxes" from mining companies, highlighting several reports of NPA attacks when mining companies do not pay up.
NPA presence justify the presence of the military in the areas where mining operations happen, according to Jovica.
With military added into the picture, the violence issue becomes more complicated when the armed forces are accused of taking sides.
When Rappler asked the #WhyMining participants if heavy security is necessary in mining sites, Jovica replied that the military personnel deployed there stay outside the mining operations and are there only to ward off rebel groups from inflicting more violence.
Roland de la Cruz, a worker's rights advocate, echoed this and pointed out that the military is only doing its duty in protecting the commanity from "insurgents".
@jakeobligs it is unfair for people to blame the military since they are just doing their job to protect the citizens against the insurgents— Roland de la Cruz (@roldlc) October 26, 2012
When companies are faced with security issues, it is but natural for businesses to secure their operations, call on authorities for assistance, and sometimes employ their own security personnel. Joshua Pielago cited food giant Jollibee in stressing how common it is to tap security employees.
Jesuit priest Fr. Joel Tabora pointed out that the presence of the military in the area only aggravates the security issue because it calls into question who really is being protected from whom.
Tabora also pointed out that peace and order duties should be carried out by the police and not the military.
#WhyMining Military and police operations should not accompany mining operations.— Tonyo Cruz (@tonyocruz) October 26, 2012
Tonyo Cruz, a social media practitioner, shared this sentiment.
@lean_santos_ They shouldn't be there.They call forth anti-military militant violence.— Joel Tabora, SJ (@Joeltaborasj) October 26, 2012
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