|A Palawan climbing an aerial bridge made of rattan canes to reach a ginuqu tree canopy.|
© Dario Novellino
Six hundred indigenous people and farmers took to the streets on Palawan Island in the Philippines on June 7, to protest against plans to mine nickel on their land.
The demonstrators called upon the provincial government to prevent the companies Macro Asia and Ipilian Nickel Mining Corporation (INC) from mining in the UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, which is their home. They also expressed their anger at news that Canadian mining company MBMI has been granted initial approval to mine.
As a result of negotiations with protesters, the provincial government agreed that its endorsements of both Macro Asia and INC’s plans required further investigation. The companies’ applications have been ‘frozen’ until all issues are clarified.
The protestors called their demonstration a ‘Karaban’ rally; Karaban is the indigenous Palawan’s word for the bamboo quiver that contains darts for their blowpipes. It is a symbol of their identity, and signifies, they say, that they are willing to take ‘whatever action is necessary’ to stop the mining companies entering their traditional territories
Indigenous spokesperson for ALDAW (Ancestral Land/Domain Watch) Artiso Mandawa, said, ‘Mining is not development, it creates conflict among people, and it destroys our culture by bringing foreign values to our community. Some of my people still have limited contact with the outside and are not even registered in the national and provincial census. They are the first inhabitants to arrive on this island and yet, for the government, they appear not to exist.’
Maman Tuwa, an elder of the isolated Palawan tribe from Mt Gantong, fears that mining will destroy his community. ‘If our mountains are deforested, how are we going to survive? What are we going to plant if the soil of the uplands will be washed down to the lowlands? How are we going to feed our children? We’ll surely die’.
Survival’s director Stephen Corry said, ‘We welcome the decision to freeze the mining applications on the land of the Palawan tribal people, and we urge the Philippine government to ensure that no mining takes place on their land without their genuine free, prior and informed consent. We also call upon President-elect Benigno Aquino III, to revoke the 1995 Mining Act which has been so disastrous for the indigenous peoples of the Philippines.’