Original Article by Butalat.com
“We are not after those promises anymore. We do not want them to pay us royalty taxes. We want them to stop their operations.”
The Palawan indigenous people are calling for a stop to the operations of the Citinickel Mines and Development Corporation in the island, saying that its five years of mining had “destroyed the environment, livelihood, health, and culture” of Palaw’ans.
Thousands of Palaw’ans protested on March 23 at the Freedom Park in the town of Sofronio Espanola, Palawan.
“We want them to stop their operations,” said Fermin Queron, secretary general of the indigenous organization Pinagtibukang Kaundang-undangan it Palaw’an (PKP).
“We want them and all other mining companies out of Palawan,” he said.
Citinickel’s operation started in 2010, with promises to give health, education and other social services, PKP said.
“After almost five years of operation, they did not provide educational, health, and other social services to us. They also promised clean water, electricity, and livelihood projects. But we did not get any of those,” said Queron.
“Since 2010, the operation of Citinickel destroyed the environment, our livelihood, health, and culture,” he said. He cited the continued poisoning of the Pulot River by chemicals from Citinickel.
“Because of this, we are being pushed deeper into poverty,” he said.
Queron said that the process of getting the Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) and the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement violated the indigenous peoples’ rights. But Citinickel did not even fulfilled what was in the MOA, he said.
“They did not pay for the damages that they have caused our land, ancestral domain, rivers, and crops. They did not pay royalty taxes to us,” said Queron.
“But we are not after those promises anymore. We do not want them to pay us royalty taxes,” he added.
The Palaw’an group joined the call for the repeal of the Mining Act of 1995 and the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA), and called for the passage of the People’s Mining Bill.