Philippines Australia Solidarity Association (PASA) hosted a forum as part of the counter event to International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) in Melbourne held between 22-29 November 2020.
The forum held on 25th November 2020 discussed the anti-mining struggles in the Philippines, especially against Oceana Gold’s destructive operation in Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya.
Speakers included Enteng Bautista from Kalikasan, a people’s network for the environment, who discussed the Philippine mining situation during the Covid-19 pandemic. He mentioned the state of deforestation and other land use, illegal and poorly regulated wildlife trade, intensified agriculture and livestock production, large scale mining, illegal logging and the non-consideration of climate change. The latter adds to the destruction of environment and the proliferation of the antimicrobial resistance, he said. According to Enteng, the Philippines is the fifth mostly affected country by climate disasters, such as super typhoons resulting in extensive flooding and mud slides.
Minda Dumang of the Association for the Rights of Indigenous Farmers and Workers was also another speaker who discussed the struggles of the Indigenous peoples (IPs) against Oceana Gold. Minda shared the devastation caused by the mining company to the livelihood of the IPs and the residents in the area. She said the land which they used to till and the rivers where they fish and use as water source have been poisoned. Toxins from the mine killed the fish and plants. The land is no longer arable, and the water is no longer potable even for animals.
The third speech was delivered by Lulu Gimenez and Ampi Mangili of the Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance (CPA). Lulu and Ampi relayed the struggles of Filipinos against destructive mining operations which date back in colonial period. Mining operations before were extracting gold and copper. The area now known as Benguet were centres of mining operations and were also the sites of struggles to defend land and trade routes. According to Lulu and Ampi, the Cordillerans never ceded their area to the Spaniards, and they participated to overthrow the colonizers. Their struggles continue during the arrival of American colonizers who opened 14 mining operations. Among the Cordillerans’ longest and fiercest present-day struggle was against the Royalco and Benguet consolidated mining operations which spanned from 2007 to 2011. Due to the community’s persistence, Royalco eventually withdrew and closed their operations. At the end of the forum, supporters confirm their commitment to continue taking actions here in Australia to help in the Filipinos’ struggle against Oceana Gold and other Australian mining operations in the Philippines.