Book Review of UNDERMINING PATRIMONY: The Large-Scale Mining Plunderand the People's Resistance in Mindanao | Reviewed by Professor Roland G. Simbulan
It is a great privilege and honor for me to review this book, UNDERMINING PATRIMONY: The Large scale Mining Plunder and the People's Resistance in Mindanao. It is a book jointly published by the Panalipdan Mindanao, Inpeace Mindanao and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines. The three groups that published this book have been the consistent allies of our indigenous peoples and their communities in Mindanao in their anti-mining and anti-logging struggles. This book is a testimony of their commitment. Mindanao's two great activists - Fr. Fausto Pops Tentorio and Francis Morales, to whom this book is dedicated, would have been very proud of this work. For this book is not just well-researched and documented, but is also full of people's experiences and insights - including photographs - in their struggle against large-scale mining.
One of my favorite writers on modern organizational theory, Robert Michels, in his classic work, Political Parties, said: "Organization is the weapon of the weak in their struggle with the strong."
For Michels' words ring a bell in the book's documentation of our people's awakening, their organization and mobilization against mining giants in Mindanao, are the many nuggets of gold scattered about in
I write this book review as a fitting tribute to our indigenous peoples who are at the forefront of our national struggle against corporate mining, especially the Lumads from Mindanao who have come to
Manila to amplify their plight and struggle.
What is most original and important in this book, however, is not the meticulous documentation of havoc on the environment and the violence inflicted against our communities in Mindanao, but also the heroic people's struggles and victories against the giant mining industry which is fully backed by the Philippine state, its armed forces, police and paramilitary units. The latter is the book's important contribution.
The recent killings of the Lumad people in Mindanao are not isolated. They highlight a bloody pattern of killings and impunity directed against indigenous peoples' communities in the Philippines. During the past five years alone since July 2010 under President B.S.Aquino, 73 people from indigenous peoples' communities nationwide have been killed, of which 57 are Lumads in Mindanao.
Why are these deplorable attacks and violence being inflicted on indigenous communities in the Philippines? Why are mining companies and their operations in the Philippines often accompanied by
militarization and violence in the ancestral lands of indigenous peoples?
When Spanish colonizers came to the Philippines in 1521, they invoked the Regalian Doctrine, which declared that all lands belong to the King of Spain, effectively dispossessing the peoples of the
Philippine Islands of their territories. This colonial dispossession "in the name of God" was based and reinforced by the Vatican's 1452 Papal Bull - the Doctrine of Discovery - authorizing European monarchs
"to invade, vanquish, subdue and to take away all their possessions and property" of pagans and non-Christians. But while the majority of the population in the Philippine Islands was subjugated, assimilated
and Christianized, the indigenous peoples were able to defend their territories or retreated further inland in mountainous areas.These have become the remaining ancestral domains of the indigenous peoples which sit on the richest natural resources of the country. Up to now, this Regalian doctrine continues to be enforced by post-colonial Philippine governments which define all ancestral lands as "public domain."
Indigenous peoples have a natural world outlook integrated with the environment. Macli'ing Dulag, a Kalinga leader in the Cordilleras who was assassinated and became a victim of development aggression,
once said, "You ask us if we own the land. And mock us, ' Where is your title? ' Such arrogance of owning the land when you shall be owned by it. How can you own that which will outlive you?"
Indigenous peoples have a feeling of oneness with the land. In their view, land is the source of life. Land is life. Since it is on land that one's ancestors are buried, they believe that the earth is man's sacred relative, and a very special relationship based on nurturing, caring and sharing exists. Indigenous peoples also believe that the spirit of creation is in all things in nature, for all life forms are related to each other, that every aspect of the natural world and earth should be honored and respected, even worshipped. This world view centers on respect for all living things in the past, present and future. So that the land is not theirs to give away, nor to sell.
In the Philippines today, extractive mining industries and corporate exploitation are the gravest threats facing indigenous peoples and their communities in the Philippines. These mining projects gravely violate indigenous people's collective rights to lands and resources. These extractive industries have subjected the indigenous communities to forced eviction from their ancestral lands,
loss of livelihood, disintegration of communal ties, and militarization.
Capitalism and the neoliberal economic system which it has bred has no respect for people's rights in many developing countries. The commodification of societies has led to the demand for the rapid
exploitation of remaining natural resources of land, timber, water and minerals, which grows ever stronger. To implement its profit-driven development model, the Philippine government has liberalized the mining industry through the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 (Republic Act 7942), the 2004 National Mineral Policy Agenda (Executive Order 270) and the Mineral Action Plan, ostensibly as a major vehicle to achieve economic growth. Because of these policies, large-scale mining in the Philippines grew from 17 operations in 1999 to 46 operations at present. Big mining firms with multinational mining companies are given preferential treatment, and have collided with indigenous peoples' communities.
Indigenous People's Resistance to Mining and Land grabbing
But the indigenous peoples in the Philippines, together with their allies in social movements are fighting back and resisting these threats to their survival, their lands and way of life. In recent years, the devastating consequences of the extractive industries under a neoliberal model of development on the lives of the people has become a unifying issue for various sectors of Philippine society to resist mining projects in various parts of the country. Large-scale mine spill disasters for in Marinduque and Benguet provinces have only increased awareness against neoliberal mining policies.
Indigenous peoples in the Philippines have organized themselves in a national federation of indigenous peoples' organizations, KATRIBU (Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas). Since 2009,
KATRIBU has identified all indigenous peoples' territories endangered by foreign mining corporations.
The Lumads of Mindanao, with the support of Church people who are respected educators, have established their own schools in their communities. Long neglected by the national and local government and bereft of basic social services, they have established these schools for their enlightenment and to uplift themselves from poverty.A prime example of this is the ALCADEV school whose director Emerico Samarca, was recently killed by a paramilitary group. The network of Lumad schools like ALCADEV not only provide basic education to the indigenous communities, but they are also a means for empowering themselves so they are conscious of their rights, while helping preserve their rich indigenous culture and practices. The Lumad schools which the Philippine government recently ordered closed down and converted into military barracks, are, for the Lumad, the proud symbols of their community's resistance against development aggression of mining companies. For these schools help preserve their belief, culture and practice that "land is life" and that the community can collectively struggle for an ecologically sustainable way of life.
From the hinterlands of Mindanao island where mining projects have made inroads, indigenous peoples' ancestral lands are under siege by international mining companies with the support of the Philippine
state. But the indigenous peoples are no longer fighting alone for their survival and defense of ancestral lands against mining. Their struggle is supported by social movements representing a broad cross-section of the population: by church people, environmental groups, students, farmers associations, lawyers and scientists.
Broad Anti-mining Campaigns
There are environmental NGOs like the KALIKASAN-People's Network for the Environment or KPNE which are nationally involved in anti-mining issues. The Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines
(CEC-Phils.) considers its advocacy not just a struggle for the environment, but for the people's rights to control and secure the nation's natural resources. CEC-Philippines has published materials for environmental advocacy, including putting out an album on environmental songs. There is now an acknowledgement that strong linkages among scientists and affected communities are needed to expose credibly the destructive effects of mining on the health of the people and their environment. A national organization of scientists, engineers and technologists - the AGHAM (Science and Technology for the People) has taken this step forward in the anti-mining campaign. Legal suits and actions to stop mining plunder have been part of the long struggle against mining in the Philippines.Legal Initiatives by
the National Union of People's Lawyers (NUPL) and the Union of People's Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM), have blocked mining operations, even filing legal cases up to the Philippine Supreme Court. People's
lawyers continue to work to stop the attempt of mining companies and the Philippine state to criminalize anti-mining protests.
A broad anti-mining advocacy group is the Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM). This alliance has linked local groups with national organizations like the Kalikasan-Philippine Network for the Environment. National peasant federations like the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) have consistently resisted the Philippine Mining Act. Lastly, there is the anti-neoliberalism alliance, the Movement Against Mining TNCs and Plunder of Resources.
The book assesses with facts, figures and photographs how the Philippine Mining Act for the past 20 years since its passage (1995-2015) has only become a tool for the legitimization of environmental plunder, land-grabbing, human rights violations and the loss of traditional livelihoods of indigenous peoples, farmers and fishermen.
Active mass resistance is not the only activity of the opposition to mining in the Philippines. Engaging in exploring alternatives to mining is as important. Indigenous communities are raising their awareness on their rights, designing and implementing their own development paths, engaging in community participatory mapping and resource inventories, exploring participatory tools measuring the extent of implementation of legal instruments, using traditional knowledge systems, waging campaigns and strengthening their movements at all levels.
The book UNDERMINING PATRIMONY is by itself a concretization of some of the tools of resistance against mining developed through experience and practice in the Philippines. They are the following:
1. Research, popularization, and human rights monitoring and documentation in communities threatened and/or affected by large-scale mining operations.
2. Capacity-building for impoverished and marginalized sections of the population to enable them to defend their rights in the name of survival as indigenous communities.
3. Strong technical collaboration and linkages among environmental scientists and affected communities, in order to expose the destructive effects of mining on the health of the people and the
4. Coordinated legal suits and actions to stop industrial mining plunder.
5. Forming active networks for research on corporate and financial aspects of mining.
It is also imperative for communities and their support groups to share each other's experiences of resistance and struggle. Active networks for research on corporate and financial aspects of mining are needed while legal suits and actions to stop industrial mining plunder are being coordinated. It is now also being realized that they need to support the development of global mechanisms made available by the UN and European Union that one can use to hold governments and corporations accountable.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has asked for the repeal of the Philippine Mining Act, citing "the devastating effects and adverse social impacts of mining that will destroy both environment and people." The Mining Act, it said, "destroys life." The Philippine churches' anti-mining campaigns are anchored on the belief that resistance to mining is a "defense of creation". The churches have consistently given support to indigenous peoples' anti-mining struggles. It has facilitated Fact-Finding Missions on human rights violations and militarization in indigenous peoples' communities. It has mobilized for Lakbayan Peoples' Marches to highlight the plight of the indigenous peoples and their struggle against mining. Truly, when local communities struggling for life against mining get together and become more connected, they become a strong national force.
Armed Defense of Ancestral Lands
The violence inflicted by the state thru its military and paramilitary units against peaceful, legal and open resistance to mining in the hinterlands have only pushed many indigenous peoples and farmers into resorting to armed defense of their ancestral lands. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) claims that more than 70% of the members of the New People's Army (NPA) rebels in Mindanao are from the Lumad tribes. But in fact, the Philippine military has by its actions, become the Number One recruiter of the NPAs coming from the Lumads. It is the mining companies and the militarization of their communities that have pushed Lumads into armed resistance. The situation has become so fertile for the NPA -- increasingly regarded by many as the genuine army of the poor -- that the longest-existing guerrilla army in the world has joined the Lumad and farmer communities in resisting mining companies and operations. The situation has become a fertile ground for extra-legal operations by NPA units, such as the destruction of mining equipment. In one incident, 50 container vans of the Tampakan mining project in Mindanao were burned by the NPA.
In sum, the multiple forms of resistance to mining have included awareness-raising activities, mass mobilizations, road blockades, lobbying with the Philippine Congress, legal cases before the courts
including the Supreme Court, local government ordinances and armed resistance.
International Solidarity against Large-scale Mining
Confronted with global mining corporations, like-minded individuals and social movements from various countries have linked up to share experiences and strategies in their struggles against mining. Filipino anti-mining activists have helped establish regional and international platforms for solidarity and support for indigenous communities affected by State and corporate projects implemented in their territories. They have forged ranks with the Indigenous Peoples Global Network on the Extractive Industries (IPGNEI).
In response to extractive industries and corporate exploitation, indigenous peoples' organizations in Asia including KATRIBU, the national federation of indigenous peoples in the Philippines, have established the Asia Indigenous Peoples Network on Extractive Industries and Energy (AIPNEE) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on March 13, 2015. The international network of anti-mining organizations are proposing to the Permanent International People's Tribunal to put global mining companies on trial for the displacement of indigenous peoples and environmental destruction. An ASEAN People's Treaty has
also been drafted that includes restrictions on mining operations in indigenous peoples' ancestral lands.
As if to highlight international solidarity for anti-mining activities, Philippine environmental and indigenous people's organizations hosted the International People's Conference on Mining (IPCM) in Manila on July 30- August 1, 2015. This unprecedented international summit of global anti-mining activists and scientists brought together 63 international organizations from 28 countries and
53 local groups in the Philippines to share lessons and to strategize a global campaign against the mining industry and its consequences. These international networks seek to better understand mining industry
trends to effectively strategize to counter the industry's myth of "sustainable mining."
Alternatives to Large-scale Mining
Mining methods like black sand, unsystematic strip and open pit mining that threaten and even poison rivers and agricultural lands cannot, by any stretch of one's imagination, become "sustainable." The unions under the Metal Workers' Alliance of the Philippines have not only worked for better working conditions of mineworkers, but are also beginning to put pressure on mining companies not to disregard
the health and safety of communities where mining operations exist.
Perhaps, the best mentors for alternatives to mining are the growing initiatives of indigenous communities to develop more sustainable and equitable forms of development. While the indigenous
peoples and their supporters want the 1995 Mining Act to be scrapped, they have proposed and lobbied for a 'People's Mining Bill' filed by sympathetic legislators in the Philippine House of Representatives.
This bill, if it becomes law, would strictly regulate large-scale mining, and ban them from indigenous people's territory (ancestral lands) where more than 60% of mining companies in the Philippines
Inspiring victories have been achieved in the local community campaigns against mining in the Philippines. Notable of these is the recent pullout of the mining giant Glencore XTrata from the Tampakan mines in Cotabato, Mindanao and, because of local resistance to mining, even the local government banned open pit mining from the area. Earlier, Australia's Western Mining had sold its share to Glencore XTrata. Local community awareness and struggles are decisive as these have often invited support from lawyers' groups, the influential Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines. Scientists and doctors have also mobilized to do environmental investigations and health surveys for endangered communities.
Fortunately, local governments are beginning to heed the call of indigenous peoples and farmers' communities to stop approving mining applications and operations. The League of Municipalities of the
Philippines (LMP) has proposed to ban large-scale mining as part of the efforts to curb the effects of climate change and global warming in the Philippines. These reflect the growing strength and influence
of the struggle of indigenous communities against destructive large-scale mining, contradicting national mining policies and programs.
The awareness and organization of Indigenous communities against mining, and the multi-sectoral support by various sectors of Philippine society have put pressure on government and corporations to
be more accountable. This was after the adoption of the United Nations' Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2007. In its pronouncements, the Philippine government claims to
uphold and protect indigenous peoples' rights. But in practice, the government's profit-driven development policy assures that extractive industries are given more priority in indigenous people's territories than the indigenous people's rights and welfare, resulting in continuing forced eviction from ancestral lands, loss of livelihood, disintegration of communal ties, and militarization.
In conclusion, the indigenous peoples' communities, which survived through the centuries, had to unite and continue to assert and defend their historic right to their lands and their way of life. Today, these
continue to be threatened by mining companies and their operations. And since mining and militarization go hand in hand, these grassroots communities must also defend themselves against violent attacks on their lives, families and communities. It is a continuing struggle for their right to their ancestral domain and survival as a people. The mining issue has only galvanized the unity of indigenous
peoples of the Philippines, and with other sectors of Philippine society as well.
As expressed so aptly by an indigenous peoples' leader from the Philippines, Vicky Corpus-Tauli, who is currently the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: "The systematic violation of indigenous peoples' rights ranging from arbitrary arrests, labeling of indigenous organizations, leaders and activists as terrorists, torture and extrajudicial killings continue. However, the assertion of their rights and their resistance agains incursions into their lands by extractive industries and land-grabbers
Before ending, let me state that the capitalist owners of rapacious large-scale mining companies are THE ENEMIES OF NATURE. Very rich in empirical data through fieldwork, document analysis and interviews, the book in my view still needs to theoretically address the real enemies of nature and the people. It is profit-oriented Capital that conditions and is the driver of capitalist development and is what destabilizes eco-systems all over the planet in an ecologically destructive way. It creates a social relation that is grounded on the domination of labor and the commodification of labor power, surplus value extraction, and the transformation of all means of production, into capital. In short, capitalism is indeed the enemy of nature, for under capitalism, everything, nature included – the atmosphere, forests, oceans and other species - is to be dissolved into everything else and nothing is to remain sacred except money. This tells us that the search for an ecologically sustainable society and the search for a just society are fundamentally the same.
Undermining Patrimony belongs to the desk of every Filipino; it should be read even by development scholars and neoliberal advocates obsessed with higher dividends for mining investments. It is the definitive statement on the harm wrought by large-scale mining in the name of progress and development. I highly recommend this book for all those interested in understanding the political economy of mining, its consequences on the people's health and safety, and the people's resistance to large-scale mining plunder. This is the story of our people, as told by our people, of the obstacles and challenges that they face as they struggle against domination over people and communities by profit-driven Capital - the real Enemy of nature.
* A Professor of Development Studies and Public Management at the University of the Philippines (U.P.), Simbulan is former U.P. Vice Chancellor and former Faculty Regent of the U.P. Board of Regents. He has written on social movements, NGOs and civil society organizations, notably the anti-nuclear and anti-bases movement in the Philippines. In 2008, he wrote "The Future of the Philippine Left."