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Bill C-300's impact on Indigenous People of the Philippines

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
Indigenous People's Week 2010, Quezon City, Philippines
Indigenous People's Week 2010, Quezon City, Philippines

Vancouver, Canada, October 2010. I have been a member of a Filipino cultural group called Kathara Cultural Dance Theatre Canada since 2004. We are an artist collective dedicated in the promotion of Filipino indigenous music, dance, and martial arts. http://melodicenergy.com/video/boxoffice.html

Having lived in Canada for the past 15 years, I needed to find a way to make sense of my life as an immigrant living in a diverse city such as Vancouver. I have felt this nagging feeling as to what roles and responsibilities I carry as a privileged person who was able to leave an impoverished country in search of better opportunities.

In my capacity as a member of the collective, I have taken on a role as a cultural artist, bridging gaps between first and second generation Filipinos, as well, facilitated learnings for non-Filipinos in embracing Filipino indigenous identity.

In the past years, the experience has become hollow. I yearned for something deeper beyond the celebration and festivity that cultural exchange provides. I looked closer into the indigenous peoples’ current situation in the Philippines, a people to which I owe my sense of Filipino and Canadian identities. To no surprise, I find that things have not improved in the homeland, and their situations reach crisis proportions.

Like many minority groups all over the world; the Tamils of Sri Lanka, the Native Indians of North America, Mayans and Aztecs of Latin America, indigenous people are one of the most marginalized people in the world, particularly in the dawn of technology and globalization. A community that is dispossessed of their lands, politically and economically exploited, living in abject poverty, subject to racism and violence, our ancestors are being driven to extinction.

“The Zamboanga peninsula in the southern part of the Philippines is home to approximately 350,000 indigenous people known collectively as the Subanon. They are mainly farmers and fishers who revere Mount Canatuan as a sacred place that is not to be touched. The peak of Mount Canatuan, according to the Subanon is not for occupation, flamboyant use, or architectural manifestations.They have had difficulty protecting the area because laws governing land use and ownership have not been respected, allowing multinational firms to establish a presence in the area to extract its resources.” (Rights & Democracy) http://www.dd-rd.ca/site/publications/index.php?id=2094&page=8&subsectio...

Toronto Ventures Incorporated (TVI) operates the project in Subanon’s ancestral land. After extracting record amounts of gold and silver in the first year of operation in 2006 for a period of 9 months, profits reached CDN$8.7 million, to which TVI left a legacy of long-term environmental destruction, displacement of over a 100 families, food and health blockades that helped deteriorate community living conditions, and promoted the desecration of sacred Subanon sites.

On the northern part of the Philippines is a mountainous region called the Cordillera. Known as the vegetable basket of the country, the Cordillera region encompasses seven provinces, has a total land area of over 1.8 million hectares, and is home to 1.3 million indigenous people. The Cordillera also sits upon a rich mineral belt that traverses the region. The Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources survey records indicate the presence of 1.96 million metric tons of gold, 960.6 million metric tons of copper, and 3000 metric tons of manganese. (Cordillera People’s Alliance) http://www.culturalsurvival.org/ourpublications/csq/article/the-cordille...

In this scenario, Oplan Bantay Laya (Plan Freedom Watch) as initiated by the Philippine government in collusion with the Philippine Army, transnational mining corporations, and local politicians, have created an environment in the lands of indigenous people of this region, a culture of forced disappearances, killings, and displacement.

Research findings by the US Department of State puts the Philippines as one of the world’ most highly mineralized countries with untapped mineral wealth estimated at more than US$1.3 trillion.  With a Philippine government that is unwaveringly in favour of major international mining corporations’ interests, local Philippine populations get the short end of the stick.

Thirteen mining projects led by 6 major Canadian mining firms who are currently in operation in the Philippines have been exploiting this situation. Without regard to human rights, environmental protection, corporate and social responsibility guidelines, Canadian government that subsidizes these mining corporations are through extension, complicit in promoting social and economic injustice being perpetrated against the Philippine population, particularly its indigenous population.

Bill C-300, an Act Respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countriesis on its third reading (October 19, 2010). While majority of industry representatives and civil society groups including Mining Watch Canada through a multi-sectoral roundtable discussions held in 2007 recommend passage of the bill, it continues to be watered down in Ottawa by pressures coming from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and some mining companies. http://www.miningwatch.ca/en/bill-c-300-corporate-accountability-activit...

It is imperative that Bill C-300 be passed. It requires Canadian firms operating in developing countries to observe corporate social responsibility standards. The bill currently does not have enough teeth, but in and of itself, is a positive first step towards reforming mining activities by Canadian firms elsewhere in the world.

A national campaign led by industry representatives and civil society organizations including Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (CP-SHR) are currently asking MPs to vote in favour of the bill with recommended improvements in order to give the bill some teeth:

1. that Canadian companies secure FREE, PRIOR, & INFORMED CONSENT (FPIC), from the people  who will be affected by their extractive activities;

2. the implementation of mandatory guidelines that articulate corporate accountability standards, as opposed to voluntary guidelines loosely stated in Bill C-300;

3. the establishment of an effective complaints mechanism where complaints are filed with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

4. the formulation and enforcement of sanctions against companies who do not comply with regulations on corporate accountability, international human rights, environmental health and safety standards.

Minority or Indigenous rights protection are enshrined in the United Nations constitution to which countries such as the Philippines, Canada, Guatemala, China, Israel, etc are signatories. It states the recognition of human rights inherent to indigenous peoples. The right to self-determination, security of person, favourable standard of living, housing, and work, and its right to ancestral lands.

In solidarity with the indigenous people of the Philippines, whose lives are directly connected to my existence and inextricably linked to the entire human race, let us support Bill C-300. Call your MP’s and get their support. Put pressure on Canadian firms directly involved in this horrendous act of injustice.  They are: Toronto Ventures Inc., Toronto, ON / Placer Domes, Vancouver, BC / Solfotara & Metallum, Burnaby, BC

Raise these issues with your MPs as together we rise up against oppression and injustice. In solidarity, we act.

 


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JR Guerrero (honorio guerrero "JR")
Eastside Vancouver, Coast Salish
Member since October 2010

About:

i have taken time off from my youth work to focus on filmmaking. i am teaching myself the many layers of muti media, i at some point would like to be on the cutting edge of technology and communications. i would like to someday use these skills to help empower the many communities that i belong. i am scheduled to go to south america for a 3 month film and volunteer excursion trip in january 2011, and use this experience to enrich my knowledge and experience with community work from a global perspective.

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Comments

(No subject)

Thank you for posting this

Hi JR:

Thank you for your elequent and passionate reflection and taking an activist role on the Bill.

I support the bill and will send out information to my network of family/friends.

If you don't mind, I'd like to post your blog on facebook so more people will learn about your campaign.

In Solidarity,

Victoria

bill c 300

thanks for your comment! unfortunately, bill c300 has already been defeated in ottawa back in late october. if it had been approved in parliament, i believe it would've been defeated nonethelss at the senate, just like what happened to the recent bill on climate change/emissions approved in parliament, then trashed in the senate, a group of non-elected appointees by current government, meaning a senate full of conservatives. the governments needs to be booted out of power. it doesn't reflect the will of the people.

there's a new bill i think thats being deliberated... i forget what it's called. you're welcome to re-post it anywhere you feel is appropriate. and thanks for asking. have a great week!

 

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