Come the second half of our CWTS, we were split into smaller groups of five or so and then assigned to respective our NGO’s. I, along with my group, was assigned to Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM): an organization that seeks to put an end to the malpractices of mining operations— especially large-scale, corporate mining ventures— that more often than not cause negative externalities on the environment and the indigenous people within their areas of operations, to name a few.
Indeed, large-scale mining ventures in the Philippines not only extract metals and minerals from their natural environments, but these ventures are normally accompanied by the scarring of the ecosystems— valuable water systems that become laced with concoctions of industrial wastes and chemicals due to mishaps in mining operations; protected zones ironically becomes sites for extraction; even whole mountains being carried away by the quarrying processes characteristic of the mining practices in the country. Of course, the local populace also gets it fair share of grievances— the encroachment of their ancestral lands; the loss of other forms of livelihood, such as agriculture; not to mention direct incidences of violence and coercion. Yet, for all that, mining only contributes, on average, about 1% to 2% to the country’s GDP. Meanwhile, those in the mining sector are shown to be among the most poverty-stricken. As such, it’s no surprise for organizations such as ATM to mobilize.
Back in December, we attended a summit or a conference for indigenous people at Batasan, Congress. The conference discussed, among other subjects, the issues on human rights especially for indigenous people in the face of corporate operations such as mining and energy generation. The sheer diversity of attendees was astounding: from northern Luzon, all the way down to areas in Mindanao, leaders from different indigenous groups arrived. That alone goes to show how big of an issue are the current situations of the different indigenous people of the country— something that could be easily overlooked when within the bubble of the National Capital Region.
Of course, I suppose that it would be an equally bad idea to try for a total stoppage in mining operations and, relating to the conference, energy generations altogether. In fact, ATM clearly clarifies that the organization doesn’t state that all mining is bad. After all, needs have to be met, and resources have to be allocated. Like a lot of things, it’s just a matter of handling the situation: how the compromises are set and how true involved parties are to their words. It’s a question on rights, on the provisions of law, on the regulation, on the interaction of stakeholders. So to say, it’s a situation as delicate as it is vast in coverage where a single decision can impact thousands.