Philippine town celebrates victory over mining firms

Date of publication: 
20 August, 2015

More and more communities winning fight against large-scale mines

Faith-based groups in Manila have welcomed the decision of a Philippines congressional panel declaring a small northern tribal town free from large-scale mining.

“It is a strong demonstration that mining in many rural communities is not acceptable,” said Ed Garingan, head of the anti-mining campaign of the Philippine Misereor Partnership Incorporated (PMPI).

PMPI is a social development network of about 300 people’s organizations, faith-based groups, and Misereor, the overseas development agency of the Catholic Church in Germany.

Garingan said the growing number of “No-Go Zone bills” in the Philippine Congress shows a recognition of the voices of people in tribal communities.

The Committee on Natural Resources in the House of Representatives last week approved a proposal to declare the town of Kibungan, in the northern Philippines’ Benguet province, a “mining-free zone”.

“Large-scale mining causes ground sinking, various illnesses due to pollution … and destruction of the environment as a whole,” said Representative Ronald Cosalan, author of the proposal in Congress.

The town of Kibungan, which has been declared an ancestral domain of the Kankana-ey indigenous peoples, supplies indigenous rice and highland vegetables to the national capital.

“This is a welcome development,” said Tony Abuso, program coordinator of the Episcopal Commission on Indigenous Peoples of the bishops’ conference.

“The Kankana-ey people deserves this tactical victory in their quest for a more balanced ecology in their town,” Abuso said.

“We are happy to know that, although slowly, the voice of the people of Kibungan is being heard,” said Oswald Panggayan, vice chairman of the Palina Indigenous Peoples’ Community Association in Kibungan.

In March last year, the villagers of Palina declared their village free from all forms of large-scale mining. After a month, the town council of Kibungan endorsed the declaration.

“Now, even the House of Representatives felt the need to consider our demands,” said Panggayan