ManiLakbayan Mindanawons launch relief drive for victims of typhoon Pablo

The ManiLakbayan delegation, composed of more than 70 leaders of peasants and indigenous peoples from Mindano, today launched at the St. Joseph College in Quezon City, a relief drive for fellow Mindanawons affected by typhoon Pablo. 

ManiLakbayan (Journey to Manila) is a Mindanao Peoples’ mobilization for the Defense of Land, the Environment, and Human Rights is currently in Metro Manila to bring voices of concern on mining-affected communities and the attacks on, specifically the extrajudicial killing of, indigenous peoples and environment defenders. 

Today’s forum, “Pakigdait (Solidarity)” became a venue for the residents of Metro Manila not only to extend help to the victims of typhoon Pablo but also to show their concern on the plight of the peasants and indigenous peoples in Mindanao who have become victims of military operations in the government’s pursuit of its counterinsurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan, and in protecting foreign mining corporations involved in large-scale and destructive mining.  
A ManiLakbayan delegate, environmentalist Francis Morales, pointed out the presence of the 2,139.44-hectare gold and copper mining project of the Canadian-owned Philco Mining which operates in the hinterland barangay of Camanlangan in New Bataan town, one of the ravaged areas of typhoon Pablo.  

Morales previously warned of the effects of the unabated mining explorations and operations in New Bataan on the integrity of various ecosystems in the area such as Mt. Kampalili-Tagub Range Complex, a known Key Biodiversity Area (KBA), and Andap and Caragan watershed areas that supply ample amount of the water for residential and agricultural uses in Compostela Valley province. “But we only got threats for airing this out because the government, through the AFP, sees us as ‘enemies of the state’ for saying these,“ said Morales. 
In an earlier statement, ManiLakbayan delegate, Sr. Stella Matutina, OSB, secretary general of Panalipdan! Mindanao, said, “we are now right smack in Manila to air out our issues. Do we need typhoon Pablo to get the attention of the central government and concerned people about our issues like political killings and environmental destructions caused by big extractive industries and other agribusiness ventures?” 

A number of ManiLakbayan delegates are from the typhoon-affected areas who said that they have  “become victims many times over not only by natural disasters but man-made as well. They were forced to evacuate not only because of floods but also because of military operations in their communities, because of threats and harassment from the military who they say were out to protect mining interests.” 

ManiLakbayan stressed that the devastating effects of typhoon Pablo “is not simply caused by nature's wrath but by the Aquino’s continuing puppetry to foreign mining interests and the government’s greed and corruption in general. The heartbreaking disasters in the New Bataan and Cateel towns and elsewhere illustrate how Mindanao's environment has reached its maximum limit, and unless this government adopts a mining policy which puts people’s safety over the insatiable thirst for profits of large-scale mining companies, we can only expect greater destruction in communities where there are big mining activities.”###