KASAMA Vol. 13 No. 2 / AprilMayJune 1999 / Solidarity Philippines Australia Network
Uniting Church says WMC profits and performance come at the expense of deception and greed
THURSDAY 15 APRIL 1999
While profits and performance take centre stage at the Melbourne Concert Hall today, indigenous people on the island of Mindanao are being cheated and deceived.
Western Mining Corporation Limited is holding its 29th Annual General Meeting in Melbourne this morning. Shareholders may well be surprised.
WMC says it is committed to "worlds best mining practice" and the maintenance of an Indigenous Peoples Policy, yet the Uniting Church in Australia has caught the Australian mining giant cheating on indigenous people in the Philippines on two occasions.
A Uniting Church fact finding team observed an act of trickery recently. In December last year a church team was invited by the Indigenous Blaan people to attend a traditional family reconciliation ceremony in Tampakan, southern Philippines. The ceremony had been organised to reestablish unity after Indigenous leaders felt WMC had set them up in opposition to one another.
The team saw a WMC representative interrupt the ceremony and coerce Indigenous leaders to sign a paper which he said would result in WMC paying compensation for WMC exploration damage of Blaan land. This occurred with Philippine armed guards and highranking officials present.
The signed paper was later seen by the team. It was written, not in Blaan, but in English, giving WMC permission to explore Blaan land for copper at any time.
Members of the team were appalled at WMCs deception and highhanded interference in the cultural life of Indigenous people. The team said these actions directly contradicted the first article of WMCs Indigenous Peoples Policy that stated "WMC is committed to developing relationships of mutual understanding and respect with the indigenous people of the areas in which we operate or propose to operate".
"There is not much mutuality here", said Rev John Barr, a member of the church team. "Attempts to develop an Indigenous Peoples Policy based on "mutual understanding" should be commended but all we see in Tampakan is deception and intimidation."
The team also claimed that WMC had given 10 sacks of rice to one of the signatories before the incident.
For more information contact: Secretary, International Human Rights, National Assembly Office, Uniting Church in Australia, PO Box A2266, Sydney South NSW 2001