Human Rights research in the Philippines

When They Dig For Gold in Tampakan

Joy Sanchez-Bravo will spend the next three months at RWI in Lund to research the human rights impact a new mine in the Philippines will have on the local population.

joy2webFor over 16 years, Joy has been working for the Human Rights Commission of the Philippines. Today she works as a special investigator at the commission. She says the dedication to work for human rights is her way to help and to be of service to her fellow Filipinos.

For Joy there was no hesitation that the research project at RWI would focus specifically on understanding and analyzing the core human rights subjects on the indigenous people who would be affected by the Tampakan mining project, one the world´s largest undeveloped copper and gold deposits located on the island of Mindanao in the southern part of the Phillippines.

“It’s a local issue for us, and we feel a need to be there for the people because they look up to us as someone who would protect their rights,” she says.

The Tampakan mining project has gained international attention and scrutiny because of its magnitude. The project is at the moment under negotiation, but if it would be pushed through it would be by far the largest mine in the Philippines, and also among the biggest copper and gold open-pit mines in the world.

“It’s economic development versus the protection of human rights for the people living in the affected area,” she says. “My aim with this project is to, with the help of RWI, ensure that in the course of economic progress and sustainable growth, no citizen is left behind to suffer from adverse consequences.”

Covering an area of approximately 10,000 hectares, the mining project will displace up to 6,000 people, mostly from the B’laan Tribe that once lived on large parts of Mindanao, but has only managed to survive as a community up in the Tampakan Mountains. Joy says the mine is being built right where people live, and when mining starts, people will have to move. That will, in turn, affect aspects like health and education, and Joy’s goal is that no one is affected by or suffers from human rights violations.

“One thing we are trying to look into is the grievance mechanism, meaning that if there would be human rights abuses, we will let people know where to go and whom to turn to,” she says.

Joy says she is excited about the next coming months in Lund where she will have the opportunity to share experiences and gain knowledge at RWI.

“I am looking forward to hearing about the experiences of my colleagues and fellows at RWI, and share those with my colleagues in the Philippines when I come back,” she says.

She also believes that the fellowship program will help her gain confidence in her work.

“It is not every day you get the chance to get trained and to build your capacity, so when I come back, I think I will be more confident in serving my fellow countrymen without hesitation. I will be able to feel like – ‘Hey, I now know this.’”

But her biggest hope is that her research project will benefit the people in the area of the Tampakan mining project.

She says: “It has always been my dream to help people and contribute to development and working for the commission of human rights is a way for me to achieve that dream.”

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