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Small Grants: In Defence of Life, in the Philippines

Local people’s network Amianan Salakniban is taking Gaia’s 2016 film, In Defence of Life, to rural communities, students and civil society groups, to raise critical consciousness about the devastating impacts of mining and strengthen the resistance of the many communities facing mining projects on their lands.

In Defence of Life busts the myths that mining brings development and prosperity; a claim mining companies often make to dupe communities. The film also demonstrates, through practical examples, that united communities can and do defeat mining companies and their political supporters. It follows the struggles and successes of four communities resisting mining around our living planet.

One of the communities is Didipio – a small village in the highlands of Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines. Citizens of Didipio, who are largely of the indigenous Ifugao People, successfully resisted attempts to build a gold-copper mine on their lands for over a decade. But this struggle was ultimately unsuccessful and since 2006 Australian mining company OceanaGold Corporation has reduced what was once Dinkidi Mountain to a 370-metre deep open pit.

When members of the Gaia Team visited Didipio to film In Defence of Life in 2015, resistance was once again growing in Didipio and the surrounding area. Local residents, gathered as an organisation called SAPPAKKMI, were saying “Palayasin!” (Leave!) to the company and beginning efforts to escalate resistance to the planned expansion of the mine.

Since its launch, we have been making efforts to repatriate In Defence of Life to support the ongoing resistance of the communities in which the film was made. In the Philippines, a small grant to Amianan Salakniban has enabled the organisation to show In Defence of life to a combined audience of more than 650 people, mainly university students and members of remote mining-affected communities across Nueva Vizcaya, who would otherwise have had no access to the film.

“For Amianan Salakniban, the film has been a great tool for bringing the story of the communities to the people and engaging them to be active in helping communities with the same situation,” says Sandra, our ally and a coordinator with Amianan. “It became easy for us to explain to the oblivious the issues, the harsh realities of mining, and in turn, debunk the false notions that it made the lives of the people better. It also became easier to explain the need to repeal the unjust and biased law that favors for foreign corporations to trample over indigenous peoples’ territories.”

Responses to the film and its messages have been profound. In the case of communities on the frontline of mining struggles, Amianan Salakniban tell us that:

“When we brought the film back to the communities of Didipio and Alimit, they (residents) were emotional and teary-eyed even, when they saw that their situation is not separate from the stories of mining happening around the world. It gave them some sort of hope that with their united, continuous and widening struggle, they can evict a giant foreign company such as Oceana Gold from their lands.”

The film is also helping raise much needed critical consciousness amongst students, inspiring action, say Amianan Salakniban:

“Many Filipino youth today are apathetic when it comes to advocacies. After the film showing, their reactions were unanimous – they were enlightened and asked what they can do.”

As an advocacy tool In Defence of Life is having a real impact in the people of Didipio’s campaign to stop OceanaGold’s mining activities. Using the film, Amianan Salakniban has successfully lobbied the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary to recommend the suspension of the Didipio Mine, though the mine continues to operate in the short-term.

Coupled with relentless demonstrations, blockades and lobbying by and on behalf of indigenous peoples from across the Philippines, including the Ifugaos of Didipio, in the hand of Amianan Salkniban In Defence of Life is playing a potent part of a wider effort to end predatory extractivism in the Philippines.

Regime change in the Philippines has brought with it a more critical stance on destructive open pit mining from the government. As screenings of In Defence of Life continue to spread in 2017, we hope to see further victories for the people of Didipio and their allies around the Philippines.

Find out more about how In Defence of Life is being used as a tool for change.

Thanks to Sahara London for their generous support to this project.

Gaia’s Small Grants Programme

Traditional and indigenous communities and the social movements they are a part of are the most dynamic forces challenging ecological destruction and social injustice today. Acting out of a sacred obligation to protect Mother Earth for future generations of all species, these deeply rooted, energetic alliances can achieve big things with a small amount of financial support.

Gaia’s Small Grants Programme recognises this fact, channelling critical funds to communities and social movements on the frontlines of efforts to bring about transformative change.

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