Coal mining — behind militarization and displacement of Lumad communities

Features Philippines Aug 10, 2018 at 2:56 pm

Caraga Watch logoSurigao Del Sur

The brutal militarization and human rights violations committed by the 75th IBPA of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and its paramilitary Magahat-Bagani led by Marcos Bocales,  drove 328 Lumad families with 1,607 individuals to evacuate from 15 communities of Lianga and San Agustin in Surigao del Sur last July 16, 2018. The Lumad were forced to leave their ancestral lands in the Andap Valley Complex because they had enough of fear and hunger within the 33 days of military encampment of more than a hundred military troops in their communities. Not wanting to experience the brutal killing such as what happened in September 1, 2015 when the very same military unit, the 75th IBPA and the Magahat-Bagani, killed MAPASU chairperson Dionel Campos and Datu Jovello Sinzo in their presence, and tortured and slit the throat of ALCADEV executive director Emerito Samarca, they were forced to evacuate again. They left behind newly rebuilt farms, homes and schools.

The purpose of the militarization of Andap Valley Complex is clear: to remove any opposition against the entry of coal mining companies into the ancestral lands of the Lumad.

Recall that in February 1, 2018 at the Indigenous Peoples Leaders’ Summit in Davao City, President Duterte declared that he will choose the investors in ancestral lands of the Manobo in the Andap Valley Complex in Surigao del Sur. He further told the Lumad gathered to prepare for relocation, insinuating the dislocation of the Lumad from their ancestral homes amidst combat operations of the AFP to ease the entry of plantations and mining projects.

In 2015, massive military operations were launched by the 36th IBPA, 75th IBPA and paramilitary group Magahat-Bagani within the areas of the Andap Valley Complex. Focus of militarization were 22 communities of the MAPASU who never wavered from opposing coal mining.

lumadSince the imposition of Martial Law in Mindanao, military checkpoints have been set up in Surigao del Sur. After declaring Marawi free from the Maute group and focusing its military operations to go after the New People’s Army, these checkpoints became more strict especially in Sitio Neptune, Brgy. Diatagon in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, one of the entrances to the Andap Valley Complex. The entry of people and food supplies was limited and community members and Lumad school teachers were constantly harassed in these checkpoint. They were often told that if they allowed the “development” of their lands, they would not have been subjected to persecution.

There are 5 coal mining companies set to operate in the Andap Valley Complex: Benguet Corp. of the Romualdez family; Abacus Coal Exploration and Development Corp., Chinese company Great Wall Mining and Power Corp., ASK Mining and Exploration Corp. and CoalBlack Mining Corp. These mining companies have been raring to operate since 2015 but were constantly prevented because of the refusal of the Lumad communities to sign the Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) agreement. The presence of Marcos Bocales, leader of AFP organized Magahat-Bagani paramilitary group and appointed fake datu of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), in activities of the 75th IBPA, shows that coal mining interests play a big role in the militarization of Lumad communities. In lieu of the FPIC of the MAPASU community, the Duterte government can portray him as the representative of the Lumad and allow the entry of coal mining into the Andap Valley Complex.

The Duterte government has been pushing for coal mining. Similar to the previous Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) and BS Aquino governments, the Duterte administration has opened the energy industry to foreign investments issuing Executive Order (EO 30) last June 2017. EO 30 established the  Energy Investment Coordinating Council (EICC) to facilitate the processing of Energy Projects and investments “with national significance.” It has increased its target for coal production from 28.3 MMMT in 2016-2017 to 43.2 MMMT by 2018-2020. This signifies a relevant increase in the number of coal mines targeting 33 new coal operating contracts (COC) to advance to its development and production phase within the years 2018 to 2020 including Benguet Corp, Abacus Coal Exploration and Development Corp., Great Wall Mining and Power Corp. which are yet to operate.

We support the Lumad communities in their struggle to defend ancestral lands from the destruction of coal mining. We denounce the Duterte government and the AFP in their utter disrespect of the Lumad people’s right to protect their land from destruction and for their right for self-determination.

(PRESS RELEASE/Caraga Watch)