Benguet Corporation and the reactionary government are accountable for the Ucab tragedy

In the aftermath of typhoon Ompong’s wrath, the small-scale miners in Bgy. Ucab, Itogon, Benguet fell victim to a landslide that left more than 40 people dead and more than 60 others still missing. President Duterte as usual goes into doublespeak mode again, saying that all mining operations, small-scale or large-scale should be stopped, but he leaves it to Congress to decide what to do with the prevailing mining laws. But his minion, Secretary Roy Cimatu of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), immediately laid the blame on the small-scale miners, washing their hands of their responsibility in the said tragedy. He then cited the said incident as reason for declaring that small-scale mining in the Cordillera Region should be banned. This statement is ludicrous, for the people of Itogon including the local officials know that a large-scale mining company, Benguet Corporation, is responsible for putting the miners’ life at risk. Since abandoning the said mines after more than five decades of operation, Benguet Corporation continues to finance small-scale mining operations within these abandoned sites. Benguet Corporation knows the dangers lurking in these sites yet they still continue to profit through small-scale mining. It is unfair to blame the small-scale miners, who are pushed to work in these abandoned mines due to lack of other sources of cash for their daily needs.

Ever the loyal servant of its greedy imperialist masters, the government gives free rein to large-scale mining companies while turning a blind eye to the dangers and inhuman working conditions being faced by mining workers. They condemn and impose restrictions on small-scale mining while allowing large mining companies to pillage the Cordillera’s rich natural resources. Through the Mining Act of 1995, the mountains of Cordillera were further opened to unbridled plunder and destruction by foreign and local mining companies, notwithstanding the damage brought about by the long-time operations of the Big Three – Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company, Inc. (LCMC), Benguet Corporation (BC) and Philex Mining Company, Inc. For this year alone, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) approved over 50 mining applications and 65 patents by big local and foreign mining companies, covering 539,841 hectares. Smaller holdings included, the total coverage of large-scale mining applications in the whole Cordillera is a staggering 746,948 hectares – more than half of Cordillera’s land mass!

Apart from the Itogon catastrophe, a similar landslide buried members of a family in Bontoc, Mountain Province. Ompong’s onslaught in Benguet, Mountain Province and the rest of the Cordilleras is another glaring proof of the vulnerability of the poor in the face of disasters. The fascist Duterte’s zero casualty target is pure hogwash. How could the toiling masses prepare for oncoming disasters when they are hard-pressed to do work that puts their lives to risk in order to live? It is the state’s responsibility to ensure its people’s safety from calamities such as typhoons. Instead of blaming the poor and imposing restrictions on small-scale mining, the government should go after the greedy local and foreign mining companies who have long been the true disaster to the lives of the Cordillera people. On top of it all, imperialism has been the culprit in the large-scale destruction of the environment that has caused climate change and brought widespread calamities. Their unending greed is the reason for the unrelenting plunder of the natural resources all over the world.

The Cordillera People’s Democratic Front (CPDF) expresses its deepest sympathies to the families of the victims. The CPDF reiterates that the Mining Act of 1995, People’s Small-Scale Mining Act and other mining laws that trample on the national patrimony must be repealed. The CPDF calls on the people to further strengthen their ranks and fight for the defense of land and its natural resources. To prevent further tragedies, we must steadfastly resist the entry of large-scale mining companies and other destructive projects. The victorious struggles against the Chico Dams, Cellophil and large scale mining companies in many parts of the region, are shining legacies which show us that the only way to stop destructive and plunderous projects is by taking the path of armed revolutionary struggle. Through this, we can still preserve the remaining natural resources for the next generation and for national industrialization and socialist construction.

Defend our land, resist further plunder of the Cordillera’s natural resources!
Justice for the mine workers of Ucab!
Down with imperialism!