Canadian Church mission looks at impact of Canadian mining projects in Philippines: Letter to President

H.E. Benigno Aquino III
President of the Philippines
1000 Jose P. Laurel St, Manila

Your Excellency :   

We are members of the United Church of Canada, visiting your country in an activity we call the Beaconsfield Initiative.

The Beaconsfield Initiative is an exposure mission to the Cordilleras in the Northern Philippines between January 2nd -12th, 2012. The trip is in conjunction with the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), The National Council of Church’s in the Philippines (NCCP), the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA), the Regional Ecumenical Council of the Cordillera (RECCORD) - all of which are long time partners of the United Church of Canada. Some of these church organizations are also members of the Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human Rights in the Philippines, and a KAIROS partner in the Philippines.

For more on the Beaconsfield Initiative visit: http://beaconsfieldinitiative.tumblr.com/

Lepanto mine tailings dam is cracking (Mission photo)
The purpose of the trip is two fold: First to establish long term covenants for life with church congregations in the Cordillera Region and congregations and ministry sites in Canada. These ongoing relationships will help us better understand the issues that confront our brothers and sisters in the Cordilleras and also allow us to learn from them what it is to be church in our own day and time. The second purpose is to evaluate the impact of Canadian mining practices in the Cordilleras. Specifically, we are looking at how the lives of indigenous peoples are affected: the militarization of the region; the extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances; the resistance to Canadian mining practices and the environmental destruction of the region.

In our journey, we have met with two citizens that seem to be detained without charges, in total disrespect of the principle of the constitutionally mandated right not to be detained without charges. We are concerned about Mr. Edward “Kiwet” Galao, 30 years old, single, farmer and resident of Brgy. Concepcion, Cervantes, Ilocos Sur, and Mr. Hilario Bantew, 42 years old, resident of Mankayan, Benguet, both belonging to the indigenous people now in prison in Cervantes, detained without charges by the PNP, since September 23rd, 2011.

It appears that they have both been illegally arrested by elements of 50th Infantry Battallion of the Philippine Army and turned over to the Philippine National Police, Cervantes, under PSI Simplicio Rabago. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) filed a complaint of illegal possession of firearms against them, accusing them also to be members of the New Peoples Army (NPA). However, the Prosecutor has not acted on any of these and no formal charges have been filed.

Both are in need of medical help. One of the two prisoners has documented schizophrenia and has no access to proper medication and care. The other has to undergo mental health assessment and medical attention as well.
Beaconsfield Initiative delegates with Philippine friends