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IPs most affected by mining

/ 12:16 AM February 17, 2017

Pictures of mountains and rivers ravaged by mining companies should remind us of a quote from the Cree Indians of North America: “Only when the last tree has died, the last river has been poisoned, the last fish has been caught, will we realize that we can’t eat money.”

Often told but almost always ignored is the fact that the mountains and rivers are the source of food and water. In the Philippines, most affected by the sacrilegious practices of mining firms are our indigenous peoples (IPs) whose life and culture revolve around mountains and rivers. In fact, the Manobo call the mountains “bobongan” (which in English means roof or, metaphorically, “shelter.”

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The IPs are also often the victims of militarization, so much so that when there are so-called “bakwit” (evacuees), we think of IPs. Military presence and the mining operations must therefore not be mere coincidence because the IP habitat and mining areas are common grounds.

Mining companies justify their existence through the jobs that they create and the billions of pesos that they contribute to the economy. Promining personalities argue that blocking their activities will obstruct development. (At this point, it should be noted that Benguet Mining Inc., the oldest mining corporation in the Philippines, has been operating since 1903.)

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Some say that IPs are “primitive,” and leaving them alone will keep them as such. That is the usual arrogance of the “schooled” and city dwellers. Perhaps because in the mountains there is no WiFi, cell phones are useless; but in the cities, people are useless without cell phones.

IPs are not stupid. Remember, they were here before “Jesus Christ” or before the Spanish conquerors landed on our shores. IPs in fact do some mining and logging, but they extract from nature only what they need. What they need is not necessarily money, but those that will give them the strength to live and live happily enough to enhance their culture. They may not possess the amenities that “modernization” has brought about, but they have been on this earth long enough to gain the wisdom of life. That is more advanced than the myth of “money and development.”

JULIE L. PO, Linangan ng Kulturang Pilipino, [email protected]

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