THE Chamber of Mines of the Philippines on Tuesday condemned the lumad killings in Mindanao, saying that the mining industry had nothing to do with the deaths.
“We call to task some leaders of the Roman Catholic Church and anti-mining groups that were quick to link the entire minerals development industry to these acts of violence and intimidation,” said the chamber’s vice president for legal and policy, Ronald Recidoro.
“They should be more careful in their pronouncements, specifically in their blanket condemnation of the mining industry. We ask them to be more circumspect and responsible in their statements and not take advantage of unfortunate incidents as another opportunity to denigrate the whole mining industry,” Recidoro added.
Recidoro said the chamber and its member-firms recognize the rights of indigenous people to live peaceably in their ancestral lands and to decide whether or not mining projects will be allowed to operate within those lands.
“The killing of Emerto Samarca, Dionel Campos and Aurelio Sinzo, and the violent displacement of thousands of lumad families from their homes are heinous crimes that have no place in civil society and whose perpetrators must be made answerable to the law,” Recidoro said.
“We call on the government to take immediate action to capture those responsible and ensure the safety and security of the affected indigenous communities to a degree that would allow them to return to their homes,” he added.
Recidoro noted that indigenous peoples’ communities largely benefit from the operations of mining companies.
Citing data from last year’s Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Report, Recidoro said that in 2012 alone, 20 mining companies operating in ancestral domains paid their host communities P340 million in royalties.
“We reiterate our commitment to uphold and promote the inalienable rights of all stakeholders from both tribal and non-tribal communities,” Recidoro said.
“We call on the government to expedite the investigation into these killings and bring those responsible to justice. We will cooperate fully with police authorities and provide whatever assistance may be necessary to conclude the investigation,” Recidoro added.
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III on Tuesday called on the government to immediately disband the paramilitary groups operating in Mindanao, saying the issue of who between the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police would hunt down those involved in the recent lumad killings must be resolved at once.
Pimentel, chairman of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, condemned the killings of lumad leaders that have caused thousands of indigenous people to flee their homes.
Emerito Samarca, executive director of the lumad school Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development, and community leaders Dionel Campos and Bello Sinzo in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, were believed murdered by members of paramilitary groups on Sept. 1.
Quoting an internal report by the 4th Infantry Division of the Army, Pimentel said there are at least eight armed groups operating in the provinces of Agusan del Sur and Surigao del Sur that are accused of human rights violations against tribal communities in Mindanao which the AFP and the PNP should immediately disband.
Reports said that more than 6,000 indigenous people have already fled their homes because they are not being given protection from atrocities and threats allegedly perpetrated by the paramilitary groups, including the Jomar Bocales and Tejero-Belandres groups, suspects in the Sept.1 killings.