Rural and Indigenous Women Bang Empty Pots, Call to End Mining and Food Scarcity – October 15, 2019
“Salat sa pagkain; pagmimina salot sa’tin” – The loud call of rural and indigenous women from Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) Women and Mining Working Group as they staged a noise barrage at the Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya. The women bang empty pots and spoons symbolizing the adverse impact of large-scale mining on food security.
“Ang aming mga kaldero ay wala ng laman tulad ng sa libu-libong pamilya ngayon sa ating bayan,” [Our pots are empty, the same as those of thousands of Filipino families.] says Teresa dela Cruz, Aeta woman from Zambales. “Ang aming pagkalampag ng mga ito, ay kasing ingay ng kalam ng sikmura namin at ng aming mga bata.” [The noise from the banging of the empty pots is the same sound of our empty stomach.]
The all-women action marked the International Rural Women’s Day and the World Food Day on October 16.
Mining on Food Security
One of the mining sites highlighted by the women is the open-pit mining in Didipio by OceanaGold. The company has been operating illegally in Didipio since the revocation of its Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) June of this year. The renewal of their FTAA was again endorsed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB). This is despite the protests of residents and indigenous communities of Didipio, the local government of Nueva Vizcaya, and thousands of people from the Philippines and other parts of the world who signed the petition to end open-pit mining in Didipio (See Petition – Cancel OceanaGold's Mining Contract NOW). OceanaGold, which has been operating in Didipio for 25 years, has destroyed local agricultural lands. Mine tailings from the mining site has also poisoned streams and irrigation water that eventually killed many rice fields in Nueva Vizcaya, the rice granary of the Philippines.
Myrna Duyan, Communications Officer of DESAMA
“Sinira na ng mina ang agrikultura namin sa Didipio. Mga taniman ay pinatay nila at pinalitan ng napakalalim na hukay. Pati ang aming tubig inumin unti-unti nang nilalason ng mga kemikal,” [Mining has destroyed agriculture in Didipio. They killed our agricultural lands and replaced it with deep pits they dug on the ground. Even our drinking water is being poisoned by chemicals.] said Myrna Duyan of DESaMA (Didipio Earth Savers Multipurpose Association), a community of indigenous peoples and farmers in Didipio affected by OceanaGold.
According to Caryl Pillora of ATM, “We have fought against mining in Didipio for years. It is heinous what OceanaGold has done to the land, to the environment, and to the indigenous peoples and communities in Didipio. Enough is enough!”
The adverse effect of large-scale open-pit mining can also be seen in other parts of the country. Brennie Morsilla who was part of the action in Bayombong told what her community in Leyte suffered from mining, “Nagmina sila sa gitna ng palayaan namin. Wala na kaming taniman. Wala na kaming kita at wala na rin kaming makain.” [They constructed a mining site in the middle of our rice fields. We have nowhere left to plant. We have no income and no food to eat.]
Rice Tariffication Law on Food Security
Large-scale mining is not the only thing causing food scarcity. The Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) signed by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte February of this year has also severely affected food security for rural and indigenous communities. The law, which removed quantitative restrictions on rice import and imposed a 35% to 40% tariff, harshly depressed the price of palay. RTL authored by Sen. Cynthia Villar intended to make rice more affordable and aid Filipinos during inflation. However, for rice farmers the law was all harm and no good.
“Kahit bumaba ang presyo ng bigas, mataas pa rin ang presyo ng ibang bilihin. Kaming mga magsasaka at katutubo wala na kaming pagkakitaan dahil pilit na kinukuha ang aming mga lupain. Walang pagpapahalaga ang gobyerno sa mga sinasabi namin. Walang konsultasyon na naganap bago naipatupad ang batas na ito. Basta na lang kami ginulat at ginutom.” [Even if the price of rice goes down, other commodities in the market remain high. Indigenous peoples who are also farmers have lost their income because of land grabbing. The government does not listen to what we say. We were not consulted before the law was passed. They shocked us and then starved us] said Teresa.
Women on Food Scarcity
According to a CEDAW report (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) by Lilak (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Right), rural and indigenous women suffer the most when it comes to food scarcity. “When families have no food to eat, women are the ones expected to find ways to secure food. They not only feed themselves, they feed their whole family,” said Cheryl Polutan of Lilak.
“This Indigenous Peoples Month, International Rural Women’s Day, and World Food Day, we want to highlight that food scarcity harms all of us, but this harm brought by large-scale mining, land grabbing, land conversion, and laws such as the RTL is felt by rural and indigenous women much, much more,” she added.
The ATM Women and Mining Working Group calls for the DENR to revoke OceanaGold’s permit and terminate their mining operations in Didipio. The group also calls to close or suspend large-scale mining operations and contracts in the Philippines and hold mining companies accountable for the damage they caused to the environment and to the communities. The rural and indigenous women also call on the Department of Agriculture and Sen. Cynthia Villar to retract RTL and end the suffering of farmers.
“Sana maintindihan ng gobyerno na sa kanilang pagsawalang-bahala kami ay patuloy na nagugutom. Ang pagkain ay aming karapatan at ang kawalan nila ng aksyon laban sa mga ganib na korporasyon ay isang paglabag sa aming karapatang pantao. Kami ay talagang salat at sila ay talagang salot,” [We hope the government realizes that while they ignore us, we continue to starve. Food is our right and their lack of action to stop these greedy corporations is a violation of our human right.] the group added.
The ATM Women and Mining Working Group is a network of women from different civil society organizations and indigenous organizations all over the country whose communities are harmed or threatened by large-scale mining. Last year, to mark the International Rural Women’s Day and World Food Day, the group conducted Food (Un)fair, a showcase of food from different regions in the Philippines endangered by large-scale mining.
For more information contact,
Media and Communications Staff
Lilak (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights)
Alyansa Tigil Mina