Dear President Aquino and Xstrata-SMI President Peter Forrestal,
I hope this letter gets to you because many Filipinos can no longer stand the insults and abuses being meted on the B’laans of Tampakan, South Cotabato. If you do not do anything about this, there will be a terrible war never before seen in Central Mindanao in defense of the ongoing slow genocide of the B’laans, all for the gold in the hands of foreigners, and the trickle they will give to the government. Are mining forces intentionally inducing conflict as an excuse to kill or drive away protesting B’laans from their ancestral domain, where the gold sits. This letter will be copy-furnished to PMS Malacanang, DENR Secretary Paje, MGB Director Jasareno, CHR, NCIP, and the media.
This article is based on the Church-NGO-led Fact Finding Mission conducted on April 26, 2012, attended by Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI), Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), NASSA, Radio Veritas, Commission on Human Rights (CHR), PhilRights, Task Force Detainee (TFD), Legal Rights Center, Social Action Centers of Marbel, Digos and Columbio, and the Passionist Fathers, with inputs from an earlier mission on March 29, 2011, attended by Social Action Center Marbel, 27thInfantry Batallion (IB), CHR, National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP), DXCP, and Sto. Nino Parish, Tampakan.
The fact finding mission was prevented by SMI-led pro-mining barricades from entering the venue inside the proposed mine site, so that 27 B’laans with two two-month old babies, had to trek to the Digos Church on 7 motorbikes to penetrate the barricade. No one could stop them from expressing their voices to the world about what is being done to them. Here is what they had to say.
KILLING ME SOFTLY
At present, this is what Xstrata-SMI, a ‘prestigious’ mining firm, fourth largest worldwide, is doing to the B’laans. They have partnered with the 27th Infantry Batallion under Col. Alexis Bravo, with 7 detachments in the proposed mining area, to impose a reign of terror akin to the vicious counterinsurgency campaigns during the Marcos era, as an excuse to suppress dissent against the mining project. They say it is better to die instantly than slowly. Only the vicious resort to slow death. Here is a list of ‘Killing Me Softly’ (KMS) activities of Xstrata-SMI and the military.
KMS No. 1. The B’laans are not allowed by the 27th IB to go to the forest, their source of food, in fear that they would coordinate with imagined NPA elements. Later, they allowed only women, but they had to ask permission first. They are slowly dying of hunger, worse that a bullet in the head.
KMS No. 2. The 27th IB forbids the B’laans from meeting at night in fear of imagined coordination with the NPA. The B’laans congregate twice a month in ‘chapels’ or houses of prayer. The suppression of the B’laans right to religion and freedom to pray is considered as a form of slow spiritual death. On top of denying the body, they deny the spirit, an unforgivable inhuman crime against Indigenous People.
KMS No. 3. The 27th IB conducts random sporadic house raids where they confiscate or throw away clothes, kitchenware, and farm animals. The B’laans right to privacy is violated. Please, Col. Bravo, if you do not know this, investigate the abuses of your soldiers. This is an unforgivable crime against the B’laans. They are human beings. Do not look at them as ‘rebels’.
The connivance between Xstrata-SMI and the military is confirmed by Col. Bravo himself, who admitted in dialogues that SMI indeed approached them and requested for their help. Is Xstrata-SMI involved in military planning? Does it dictate or ‘suggest’ measures not for security but for suppression of dissenters? Those are the $64,000 questions. The employment by large mining multinationals of military forces in Third World countries is a global trend. As long as money flows in, there are no protests.
KMS No. 4. When the ECC was denied in January 2012, Xstrata-SMI’s mining preparation activities surprisingly intensified. They are confident their multi-million-peso PR will break all the hurdles. They continued exploration, widening roads to accommodate huge drilling machines which bore deep 6-inch-diameter holes in the ground. (Such drilling in a network of fault lines, such as in Tampakan, have triggered earthquakes in many places worldwide.) Road widening has destroyed cornfields and sacred burial grounds, contributing to the killing-me-softly of B’laans, both physically and spiritually. When the B’laans asked for compensation, the SMI people simply said the land was no longer theirs. Development activities without an ECC is illegal, but the government seems unable to stop Xstrata-SMI from these blatant violations. These activities also violate human rights.
KMS No. 5. SMI has ongoing relocation efforts inspite of not having an ECC and no Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC), which are blatant violation of our laws. They have asked pro-mining mayors, who have received SMI development funds, to be the spokesperson for these illegal moves. SMI imposed deadlines for the B’laans to submit an inventory of their properties so they can be compensated for the relocation. They threatened that non-compliance means no compensation. The B’laans had to sign the inventory, which SMI will consider as evidence they agree to relocation. SMI set up giant streamers announcing relocation, thinking the B’laans, majority of whom do not read, would understand. The B’laans do not know what is going on. Are DENR, MGB, NCIP and CHR helpless to stop these blatant violations? Please let us hear from you.
SMI wants to relocate the B’laans of Bongmal to Atmurok, inspite of knowing there is a long standing tribal feud between B’laans of Bongmal and Atmurok. Are they intentionally inducing tribal war as an excuse for more military control in behalf of SMI?
Dear President Aquino and Mr. Forrestal, why does Xstrata-SMI have the gall to blatantly disregard and violate existing Philippine laws. Is the government tolerating this so that it can get taxes from the mining operations? If not, why is it so helpless. We want some replies.
Read a letter sent by British ambassador to Clive Wicks, who raised concerns about the Tampakan project.