UNITED NATIONS NATIONS UNIES
DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL AFFAIRS
Division for Social Policy and Development
Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
Government of Khabarovsk Krai and the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North (RAIPON)
INTERNATIONAL EXPERT GROUP MEETING ON INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
AND PROTECTION OF THE ENVIRONMENT
KHABAROVSK, RUSSIAN FEDERATION
AUGUST 27.-29, 2007
Case Study on the Impacts of Mining and Dams on the
Environment and Indigenous Peoples in Benguet, Cordillera, Philippines
CORDILLERA PEOPLES ALLIANCE
Land and People of Benguet
The Cordillera region in Northern Luzon, Philippines, is homeland to more than 1 million indigenous peoples belonging to at least 8 distinct ethnic groups collectively known as Igorots. Two of these ethnic groups, the Ibaloy and the Kankanaey, are found in the province of Benguet, which occupies 265,538 hectares of the Cordillera region’s total land area of 1.8 million hectares. The Ibaloy people live in the southeastern portion, occupying 8 of the province’s 13 towns. The Kankanaey, meanwhile dominate the northeast areas of Benguet.
Benguet’s fertile land along the rivers and gold ore in the mountains saw the emergence of distinct villages engaged in various economic activities. Gold mining communities rose in the gold-rich areas in Itogon, while gold-trading villages were established along strategic mountain passes and trails. Rice-growing villages emerged in the river valleys. Swidden farming combined with gold panning in the streams and rivers.
Land ownership among the Ibaloy and Kankanaey is traditionally recognized by prior occupation, investment of labor and permanent improvements on the land, specifically irrigation systems and retaining stonewalls of the ricefields. The community shares access rights to the forests, rivers, and creeks, and the fruits of these lands and waters are open to those who gathered them.
Entry of mining, construction of dams
Mining has a long history in the Philippines. Small scale mining has been practiced by Philippine peoples for at least ten centuries, and large scale mining by foreign as well as Filipino firms for about a century. Little is known, though, about mining prior to the coming of the Spanish colonialists in the 16th century.
Corporate mining in Benguet started during the Spanish colonial period when Spanish businessmen secured a mining concession from the Igorots in Mancayan and launched the operations of the Sociedad Minero-Metalurgica Cantabro-Filipina de Mancayan in 1856. This mine eventually closed down. When the Americans arrived in the 1900s, they entered into contracts with local families to file legal claims to mineral-bearing land. These claims were later used by American prospectors to create the mining companies that would dominate the mining industry in Benguet. These were Benguet Corporation, Atok Big Wedge, Itogon-Suyoc Mines and Lepanto Consolidated.
In the 1950s, the Agno River in Benguet was tapped as a source of hydropower. The first dam to be built along the Agno River was the Ambuklao Dam, followed by the Binga Dam. Twelve (12) other run-of-river mini-hydros, all privately operated, were also built in other parts of Benguet.
In the 1980s, widespread people’s resistance forced the Marcos government and the World Bank to give up its plans for major dam projects in the region. However, the Ramos government took advantage of the energy crisis in the 1990s and initiated with Japanese funding, the construction of the San Roque Multipurpose Project. The San Roque dam is the third dam to be built along the Agno River, located in the boundary between Benguet and Pangasinan province of Central Luzon.
II. Mining Operations, Dams and...