Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The social cost of mining

JUVY Malid Capion is 27 years Old and 3 months pregnant.  Her two sons, Pop and John are 13 and 8 years old, respectively.  They belong to a very poor family of the B’laan tribe in Siteo Fayahlob, Barangay Datal Aliong, Kiblawan, Davao del Sur.   A little past 6 in the morning on October 18, 2012, the helpless trio were gunned down mercilessly by fully armed members of the Philippine Military in the confines of their decrepit home.  There were other children and adults on target, but by sheer luck they were able to escape.  After the senseless and indiscriminate volley of fire by the military, remains of the carnage were splattered on the house grounds with the head of one of the boys chopped, reminiscent of the same devilish killing of the infamous Ampatuans. 
The Military was quick to report the incident.  Their report, however, was as senseless as the atrocity they have committed to the innocent and helpless civilians.  The military claimed that the apparent massacre was actually an encounter.  The soldiers led by 1Lt. Dante Jimenez, the commanding officer of Bravo Company of the 27IB were pursuing Daguil Capion, husband of the Juvy Malid, who is suspect in a 2010 ambush of three construction workers of the Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI).  And that they were there to serve a warrant of arrest.  

Of course, no matter how tactical, this version of the story is a lie.  As if this futility is not enough, the military leadership has promised to investigate the incident.  So have the Commission on Human Rights and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.  But just like the common culture of impunity in this country, this route is not going to bring about any useful result.  In a year or two, this will be shelved utterly into the dustbin of oblivion.

Be that as it may, but non-government organizations and the local church believe that the real issue is about the Tampakan Copper and Gold project of Xstrata/SMI.  Daguil Capio, leading many others of the B’laan tribe, has been persistently opposing this foreign-owned mining company and any other mining-related activities within their ancestral domain. 

In a statement after the Tampakan massacre, Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez of Marbel wrote: “Before the entrance of Western Mining Corporation (WMC) in 1995 there was relative peace in Tampakan.  When Sagittarius/Xstrata/Indophils, successor of WMC, came trouble started.  Besides this bloody incident there is now a brewing war between the B’laans of Brgy. Bong Mal and B’laans of Atmorok.  SMI decided to relocate the B’laans of Brgy. Bong Mal to Atmorok. These two communities have bad blood between them.  Majority of the B’laans want the military out of their ancestral land.  They also want Sagittarius Mines Incorporated to respect their ancestral land, human rights, customary laws and traditional rich cultures.  They want SMI to stop the project.”  This indeed is the real issue.  In most cases, the social cost of mining companies is as heavy as the environmental degradation that definitely outweigh whatever little economic gains they purports to contribute to the national coffers, if ever there is. 

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