NEWS

Tobunken-Seminar "Neoliberalism, Resource Governance and the Everyday Politics of Protests in the Philippines"

Date:Wednesday, September 10, 15:00-17:00

Venue:Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, 612 Department of Pioneering Asian Studies Common Room

Speaker: Jewellord Nem Singh (Lecturer, Department of Geography, University of Sheffield) , Visiting Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, The University of Tokyo

Discussant:Dr. Hideyuki Kurita (Ehime University)

Title:Neoliberalism, Resource Governance and the Everyday Politics of Protests in the Philippines

Language:English


Abstract:

How far can civil society shape mining regimes and in what ways do they influence policy changes? This paper examines the recent conflicts on the role of mining and social development in the Philippine political landscape. Civil society activism contests the possibilities of transnational investments bringing in long-term economic development in a country characterised by challenging geographies for mineral extraction, political violence, and a history of socio-environmental disasters. Importantly, studying resistance movements place questions of rights, agency and political mobilisation as key organising concepts in understanding why the ‘logic of globalisation’ is neither inevitable nor necessarily desirable.

Specifically, ‘anti-mining’ movements reflect the contestation of a neoliberal model of mining management expressed specifically by local political actors who have been sidelined in national political debates. The consolidation of a national anti-mining movement indicates the strength of resistance against FDI-led, large-scale mining (as opposed to mining per se). The movement links the diverse efforts of activists, community leaders, and the Catholic Church to think about alternative policy paradigms in the mining industry. In addition to the national movement, local communities and regional elites have also challenged the normative commitment of the government towards private capital participation through a nuanced critique of large-scale mining. These actors have come to constitute a somewhat unified political voice against neoliberalism as a development paradigm.

Importantly, our paper details the complex and heterogenous politics of social mobilisation in the Philippines. We discuss two competing visions of mining and development within Philippine civil society. The first position, led by the Alyansa Tigil Mina (Alliance Against Mining) coalition, takes a more reformist stance and negotiates with the state. The second perspective articulated by the Kalikasan (Nature) coalition offers a more radical critique against mining-led development by refusing to work within the parameters of reform set by industry participants and state actors as well as stressing the legitimacy of small-scale mining as a livelihood strategy for poor communities. These positions demonstrate the conflicting views around the promise of mining for poorer communities. Nevertheless, both rely on local community support in the mining regions for their campaigns. Their campaigns are also constrained by the limited impacts of mobilization in national politics to reverse the government’s position in encouraging the private sector to invest in the mining industry.

The paper tells a larger story about the changing political economy of the Philippines, but also how ordinary people and local communities respond to these changes as they become subject to the forces of globalisation. By stressing the weapons deployed by relatively powerless groups, we are able to understand how ordinary people devise their livelihood and resistance strategies as they become integrated in global circuits of production and consumption.

METHODOLOGICAL NOTE: We conducted field research in Metro Manila and Luzon from 2009 to 2014. We visited several mining sites in Camarines Norte and Nueva Vizcaya, as well as several municipalities in the provinces of Benguet, Ifugao, and Mt Province. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with leaders or representative of people’s organizations, as well as national actors ranging from transnational companies, state officials, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). For this paper, we focused on acquiring the perspective of non-governmental organizations, people’s organizations, and indigenous group organizations. The interviews fairly cover national anti-mining movements, indigenous groups, leaders of Islamized and non-islamized communities in Mindanao, and the Christianized communities in Luzon. Their perspectives reveal the ways in which they deal with, and resist, the neoliberal mineral regime, which could not be easily found in documents and reports. Interviews with mining companies and government officials affirm, build, or at times contradict the perspectives of civil society groups. In addition, the views and perspectives collected were triangulated with data from government reports and newspaper clippings.

NOTE: The paper is a co-authored piece with Alvin Camba and will be published as a book section in The Everyday Political Economy of Southeast Asia, edited by Juanita Elias and Lena Rethal, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015.