Archive for September, 2012

The Philippines: What We Learned

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Haniel Garibay and I recently took part in a two week medical mission/advocacy trip to the Philippines. In addition to the medical mission, we learned about human rights abuses and environmental justice in Mindanao. Twenty-one of us came from the US.  Most – but not all – were United Methodists. The oldest of the group was in his late 70's; the youngest, a 17 year old still in high school. We flew to Manila (a 13 hour flight) and then on to Davao which was our base of operations.

We were greeted in Davao by a local group of about ten people – including two United Methodist missionaries – who were handling local arrangements. The connections of our local hosts allowed us to meet an amazing variety of people in Davao and be received as friends when we traveled in the remote mountain areas.

A significant part of the trip was the four days and three nights in the mountains at sitio Dulyan. The people of Dulyan belong to the Ata-Manobo, an indigenous tribe. The tribe sees the land and its resources as a common possession to be used for the benefit of all in the tribe.

To get to Dulyan, we rode the bus ride for two hours to Talaingod in Davao del Norte province. The paved road ended there. Then, we transferred to the backs of motorcycles for a 45 minute ride up a muddy, twisty dirt road into the mountains. The 21 missioners from the US were joined by about 80 local missioners from Davao.

There was a welcome program the evening we arrived. Tribal leaders shared about their tribe and their struggle to protect their ancestral lands from outsiders seeking to exploit its resources. They talked about how the different Ata-Manobo villages had come together to successfully resist government efforts to build large dams for hydro-electric power.

The next day was the medical mission. Hundreds of people came for medical and dental care. Some were from Dulyan. Many others walked for hours – or even a day or longer – from neighboring villages.

The third day was devoted to conversations. Tribal leaders from 24 of the 80+ Ata-Manobo villages shared how their tribe was looking for help with education, medical care and better ways to feed everyone. Afterwards, women from our group met with women from the tribe; younger people met with young people; and those interested in education met with the teachers. The women shared about their hope of being able to choose how often they were pregnant. The young people and teachers shared how education was giving the tribe more options for choosing how to interact with the outside world. Many talked about their fear of the army and how soldiers mistreated and sometimes killed people in the tribe. You can watch a short video about this part of the trip here and here.

Another day we went into different mountain range. We learned about the struggle of small scale miners against plans for large scale, open pit mining. You can read MFSA’s statement here.

We also learned about Father Fausto “Pops” Tentorio, a Roman Catholic missionary, and others who had been killed for their work helping the people of Mindanao.

The Mission Trip has a report back site on Facebook. The site continues to be updated with new videos, pictures and comments. If you can join us by live stream on Friday Sept. 21, 2012 at 7 pm Pacific Time at

UPDATE: Report Back video can be seen here. While the video is about 2 hours long, there are lots of photos and videos.


Rev. Richard Bentley, Jr is one of MFSA's Cross-Cultural Coordinators. He also serves as Senior Pastor at First United Methodist Church in Alhambra, California, a multicultural congregation worshiping in English and Mandarin.                                                                                                                               


MFSA Supports Indigenous Miners in The Philippines

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – September 5, 2012 – The Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA) participated in an advocacy trip to Mindanao Province, Philippines August 8-22, 2012 to draw attention to the plight of indigenous miners and the economic and ecological devastation being wrought by mining conglomerates.

The United Methodist Church is a worldwide church and has members in Africa, Europe, The Philippines and the United States.  MFSA Cross-Cultural Co-Coordinators, Rev. Richard Bentley and Haniel Garibay, Home Missioner, participated in the advocacy trip on behalf of MFSA.

The following statement was issued after our meetings with small scale miners in Gumayan, Pantukan, and Compostela Valley:

“MFSA supports the desires of all peoples and communities for self-determination including the small scale miners of Gumayan. MFSA also is concerned about the responsible use of the world’s resources. This is expressed in the United Methodist Social Principles:

All creation is the Lord’s, and we are responsible for the ways in which we use and abuse it. . . .let us recognize the responsibility of the church and its members to place a high priority on changes in economic, political, social, and technological lifestyles to support a more ecologically equitable and sustainable world leading to a higher quality of life for all of God’s creation. . . .We urge development of international agreements concerning equitable utilization of the world’s resources for human benefit so long as the integrity of the earth is maintained.

Based on these principles MFSA is concerned about the proposed displacement of the small scale miners of Gumayan in order to allow for the transnational corporation Russell and St. Augustin to exploit the resources of the town of Pantukan by engaging in open pit mining. Throughout the world, open pit mining has scarred the environment so that the land cannot be used for other purposes for generations to come. The toxic mine tailings wash down into streams and rivers. This pollutes their waters and poisons all who use their water, including communities in the low-lands far from where the open pit mining is occurring.

From the observations of this mission/advocacy trip, MFSA believes that a better course of action would be to work with the small scale miners. We believe in prioritizing local communities and the environment. These miners already show tremendous resourcefulness in their mining practices, accomplishing much with very few resources. While there are valid concerns regarding the environmental sustainability of their practices, our talks with the small-scale miners show that they are eager to address these concerns themselves.  But they need technical and material assistance.  If government has previously provided generous incentives to corporate miners there is no reason it cannot extend similar assistance to the small-scale miners, particularly on the issue of safe environmental practices. Ironically raising the issue of environmentally safe mining practices against small-scale miners distracts from the far more appalling record of environmental destruction wrought by corporate mining. It would be even more absurd to push for corporate, open-pit mining just because small-scale mining is supposed to be harmful to the environment.

Likewise, there is a tremendous social benefit in helping the small scale miners of Gumayan expand their abilities. The profit from their labors goes to the ones who are actually laboring. And, this profit remains in the community, rather than going to a multi-national corporation. This means that more of the wealth of The Philippines will go to benefit the people of The Philippines.

MFSA would love to see local communities work hand in hand with government, both local and national, yet we are concerned about the clear bias we observe in the national government towards foreign corporations.  If we are forced to take sides on the issue we would state without reservation that we stand in solidarity with the small-scale miners and their families.”

Since 1907, the Methodist Federation for Social Action has worked to mobilize, lead, and sustain a progressive movement, energizing people to be agents of God’s justice, peace, and reconciliation. As an independent, faith-based organization, MFSA leads both Church and society on issues of peace, poverty, people’s rights, progressive issues, and justice within The United Methodist Church.



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