KASAMA Vol. 13 No. 2 / April–May–June 1999 / Solidarity Philippines Australia Network



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 "world’s 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 B’laan people to attend a traditional family reconciliation ceremony in Tampakan, southern Philippines. The ceremony had been organised to re–establish 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 B’laan land. This occurred with Philippine armed guards and high–ranking officials present.

The signed paper was later seen by the team. It was written, not in B’laan, but in English, giving WMC permission to explore B’laan land for copper at any time.

Members of the team were appalled at WMC’s deception and high–handed interference in the cultural life of Indigenous people. The team said these actions directly contradicted the first article of WMC’s 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