In March 2006, former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo called for a revitalization of mining nation-wide. Open-pit and strip mining for nickel results in the flattening of mountain tops, in the plundering of forest and in the production of vast amounts of tailings that contaminate freshwater sources and the sea. Palawan, the richest Philippines’ province in terms of biocultural diversity, and a UNESCO Man & Biosphere Reserve, is threatened as ever before.
ALDAW (Ancestral Land/Domain Watch), a local advocacy network decided to take immediate action, in the attempt of bringing the plight of Palawan indigenous peoples to international attention. In 2009, ALDAW in collaboration with the Centre for Biocultural Diversity (CBCD) of the University of Kent, began to produce participatory videos amongst indigenous communities. The primary aim was to provide communities with more information on the ecological and social impact of mining, in order to allow people to make informed decisions while confronting mining corporations. ALDAW began its journey amongst those communities who had already experienced the effects of mining. The recorded testimonials from community representatives (both indigenous and migrant farmers) were shared with other communities who were still in the process of confronting mining companies, and were unsure about the way in which they should approach these enterprises. These videos have had a tremendous impact in terms of bringing local grass-root voices to policymakers and to the global level.
Dedicated ALDAW channels on YouTube and a page on Vimeo were established. For the residents of Palawan, these platforms have become an essential channel for presenting their claims and aspirations, as well as for entering into a dialogue with other indigenous communities from around the globe. ALDAW fieldwork also included the production of geo-tagged images aimed at documenting the overlapping between mining concessions, fragile environments and the ancestral territory of indigenous communities. Geo-tagged photos were loaded into a geo-aware application, displayed on satellite Google map and posted on the ALDAW Facebook Page. ALDAW also posted an Online Petition that, as of the present, has been signed by almost 4,900 people, while ad additional 20,000 signatures were collected through the assistance of Rainforest Rescue.
Networking and the wide dissemination of information on the Palawan case encouraged other organizations - such as Survival International - to support the ALDAW campaign. As of now, a number of advocacy organizations and research institutions provided added channels for ALDAW to disseminate information including video documentaries (vlogging) and updates from the field. See, for instance, Intercontinental Cry, PPgis.Net Blog , Plant Talk of the Eden Project, Community Solidarity Response Toronto, CEESP, the IUCN Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy, PipLinks (Philippine Indigenous Peoples Links).
Rainforest Rescue also decided to support ALDAW struggle, by petitioning the UNESCO for taking no action to protect its declared Palawan Man & Biosphere Reserve. As a result of this action, ALDAW has been approached by the UNESCO and preliminary negotiations are ongoing.
Just when the Palawan campaign almost appeared to have reached its peak, a tragic and unexpected event took place in Palawan on 24 January 2011, Gerry Ortega, an environmental advocate and broadcast journalist, was killed by a gunman after finishing his daily radio program on DWAR Palawan, which had been very critical of mining interests. Right after this, the ABS-CBN Foundation of the Philippine decided to fully support anti-mining efforts in Palawan, through the lunch of a 10 Million Signatures “No to Mining in Palawan” online petition.
Recently, in response to the mounting outcry from both International and National communities, Pres. Benigno Aquino III announced that the government will cancel more than 300 pending mining applications in Palawan. ALDAW and the NGO community have welcomed the President’s decision, but they also warned that this will have little impact on the ecological integrity of Palawan because it would not stop the destruction and degradation being done by those mining projects that are already operating on the island.
People interested in the topics can join this GoogleGroup.
Impact on policy making:
Here are some articles appeared in the press:
- Phl suspends issuance of new mining permits (philstar.com) February 18, 2011
- Paje to MGB: Stop accepting new mining applications The Philippine Star, 02/19/2011
- Philippines suspends issuance of new mining permits (Xinhua, 2011-02-18)
- Uphill battle vs mining in Palawan begins ABS-CBN News, 02/23/2011
Comments are reflections
The short article summarizes the experience and methodologies of the ALDAW Network in bringing the voices of mining affected communities on Palawan Island (the Philippines) to national and international attention. The overall ALDAW campaign strategy combines community grounded work with several WEB 2.0 tools/platforms such as YouTube, Vimeo, Blogs, Vlogs, Facebook, Geotagging, GoogleGroups, e-networking, and other tools for monitoring the occurrence of selected topics on the net, etc.
Some of the key lessons learned which ALDAW could share with other indigenous/farmers groups, as well with NGOs and People’s Organizations from different countries include the following:
- How to use participatory videos to fostering reflection and joint actions while establishing strategic grass-root alliances against extractive-industries;
- How to produce and circulate participatory videos to be used for exerting pressure at the national and international policy level.