MFSA Supports Indigenous Miners in The Philippines

I am posting here an article from M.F.S.A. (Methodist Federation for Social Action) Newsletter, Volume VII, Issue 15, September 5, 2012, an event that happened within the geographical area of Mindanao, of which we participated and co-sponsored the Advocacy event. A first person perspective by brother Haniel Garibay on the Advocacy event is also printed here. (Rev. Francisco Bilog)

MFSA Supports Indigenous Miners in The Philippines
Thursday, September 6th, 2012 12:04 pm

WASHINGTON, DC – September 5, 2012 – The Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA) participated in an advocacy trip to Mindanao Province, Philippines August 8-22, 2012 to draw attention to the plight of indigenous miners and the economic and ecological devastation being wrought by mining conglomerates.

The United Methodist Church is a worldwide church and has members in Africa, Europe, The Philippines and the United States. MFSA Cross-Cultural Co-Coordinators, Rev. Richard Bentley and Haniel Garibay, Home Missioner, participated in the advocacy trip on behalf of MFSA.

The following statement was issued after our meetings with small scale miners in Gumayan, Pantukan, and Compostela Valley:

“MFSA supports the desires of all peoples and communities for self-determination including the small scale miners of Gumayan. MFSA also is concerned about the responsible use of the world’s resources. This is expressed in the United Methodist Social Principles:

All creation is the Lord’s, and we are responsible for the ways in which we use and abuse it. . . .let us recognize the responsibility of the church and its members to place a high priority on changes in economic, political, social, and technological lifestyles to support a more ecologically equitable and sustainable world leading to a higher quality of life for all of God’s creation. . . .We urge development of international agreements concerning equitable utilization of the world’s resources for human benefit so long as the integrity of the earth is maintained.

Based on these principles MFSA is concerned about the proposed displacement of the small scale miners of Gumayan in order to allow for the transnational corporation Russell and St. Augustin to exploit the resources of the town of Pantukan by engaging in open pit mining. Throughout the world, open pit mining has scarred the environment so that the land cannot be used for other purposes for generations to come. The toxic mine tailings wash down into streams and rivers. This pollutes their waters and poisons all who use their water, including communities in the low-lands far from where the open pit mining is occurring.

From the observations of this mission/advocacy trip, MFSA believes that a better course of action would be to work with the small scale miners. We believe in prioritizing local communities and the environment. These miners already show tremendous resourcefulness in their mining practices, accomplishing much with very few resources. While there are valid concerns regarding the environmental sustainability of their practices, our talks with the small-scale miners show that they are eager to address these concerns themselves. But they need technical and material assistance. If government has previously provided generous incentives to corporate miners there is no reason it cannot extend similar assistance to the small-scale miners, particularly on the issue of safe environmental practices. Ironically raising the issue of environmentally safe mining practices against small-scale miners distracts from the far more appalling record of environmental destruction wrought by corporate mining. It would be even more absurd to push for corporate, open-pit mining just because small-scale mining is supposed to be harmful to the environment.

Likewise, there is a tremendous social benefit in helping the small scale miners of Gumayan expand their abilities. The profit from their labors goes to the ones who are actually laboring. And, this profit remains in the community, rather than going to a multi-national corporation. This means that more of the wealth of The Philippines will go to benefit the people of The Philippines.

MFSA would love to see local communities work hand in hand with government, both local and national, yet we are concerned about the clear bias we observe in the national government towards foreign corporations. If we are forced to take sides on the issue we would state without reservation that we stand in solidarity with the small-scale miners and their families.”

Since 1907, the Methodist Federation for Social Action has worked to mobilize, lead, and sustain a progressive movement, energizing people to be agents of God’s justice, peace, and reconciliation. As an independent, faith-based organization, MFSA leads both Church and society on issues of peace, poverty, people’s rights, progressive issues, and justice within The United Methodist Church.

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“Recently I participated in a Volunteers in Mission advocacy and medical mission trip to my home country of The Philippines. During our time in Davao City we participated in honoring the life and work of Fr. Fausto ‘Pops’ Tentorio, an Italian Roman Catholic missionary of the PIME order, well-known and loved for his work as a strong opponent of corporate mining. He had received death threats and was assassinated on the parish grounds. Before he fell to the ground he had been hit by more than 10 bullets from a silencer-equipped machine pistol.

The next three days was spent in the village of Dulyan, in the town of Talaingod in the Davao del Norte province. Dulyan is populated by an indigenous tribe called Ata-Manobo, which has its own indigenous language distinct from that of the main lowland language in Mindanao called Binisaya (or Cebuano), which I speak. While the residents of this area live daily lives without many of the comforts those of us in America have taken for granted, nothing was more appalling than the health situation in the area. Children were underweight, basic food was scarce, and a rat infestation was destroying crops. Medical services were so rare that many walked from other villages for a whole day, in some cases, two, to take advantage of the services our team was providing..

The village school teaches up to the sixth grade. Founded with the support of Fr. Pops, the school teaches, among other things, concepts of ancestral rights to land and communal ownership of it, along with other basic human rights. The school uses a mother-tongue approach so the children learn through their everyday language, along with learning Binisaya, the dominant language in Mindanao, as well as Filipino (or Tagalog) and English. The school, though recognized by the government, is nevertheless under pressure to close down for fear of it being controlled by the New People’s Army.

Dialogues were conducted among various sectors like the political leaders, women, children, youth and teachers. The leaders were intent on keeping their communal land, keeping away corporate interests. At the same time they were opening themselves to education with a healthy respect to their culture. Culture of course is a battleground within the village. While there was agreement on the concept of ancestral domain and communal ownership of land, there was ferment in other areas. For example, women wanted an end, at least eventually, to arranged marriages (as early as 13 or 14 years old), to have access to birth control methods and the eventual demise of patriarchy.

Leaving Dulyan, our group, which also included MFSA’s other Cross-Cultural Co-Coordinator, Rev. Richard Bentley, was reminded that the people we met there were filled with hope for the future. Filled with that same hope, we at MFSA are continuing to strengthen our relationships within The United Methodist Church in The Philippines, raising awareness of the challenges faced in our global struggle for peace with justice. Won’t you join us in this amazing time of learning, listening, working, and advocating together?”

Haniel Garibay, Home Missioner
Cross-Cultural Co-Coordinator

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