MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Canadian company TVI submits to Philippine tribal justice

Published by MAC on 2011-05-24
Source: Gulang Gukom

After years of denying that Mount Canatuan is sacred, the Philippine subsidiary of the Canadian mining company, TVI Pacific, has finally admitted it is.

Many people may view the admission, and the company's ritual act of apology, as long overdue - given the mountain has been pretty much levelled through mining.

However, for the legitimate leaders who have struggled for recognition (and lost much in the process because of  their anti-mining stance), this event is more than symbolic. The submission by TVI to tribal justice marks a victory in overcoming the huge imbalance of power faced by tribal people like the Subanon when confronting such companies.

TVI's denials of the sacredness of the mountain have continued to be made at various fora, including an ongoing complaint to the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) to which the company is a third party (See: "Respect Our Rights": Subanon reiterate call to Philippine government).

It is heartening that the tribal leaders wish to continue with their action at UNCERD, particularly in seeking redress for the role that the Philippine Government has played in abusing their legal right to give, or withhold, consent to the project.

TVI should back up its apparent newfound respect for the Subanon by assuring that the Canatuan mine is closed according to best international practice and by agreeing not to mine on the lands of other Subanon peoples without their Free, Prior and Informed Consent.

A video of local leaders discussing the mining project & their complaint to the UNCERD can be viewed here.

TVIRDI Admits Fault and Performs Cleansing Ritual in Canatuan

Gulang Gukom Press Release

18 May 2011

Mt. Canatuan, Tabayo, Siocon, Zamboanga del Sur - The TVI Resource Development, Inc. (TVIRDI), after years of not recognizing the leadership of Timuay Jose Boy Anoy, finally and publicly admitted its fault and performed the mandatory cleansing ritual at their expense on May 17, 2011 in Canatuan.

The sacred mountain of Canatuan as mined by TVI
The sacred mountain of Canatuan as mined by TVI
Photo: Vicky Cajandig

"I appreciate why the company is doing this. This is our atonement for desecrating the sacred Mt. Canatuan. It's an atonement for our sins," said Joel Alasco, manager of TVIRDI's Community Relations and Development Office (CREDO) who represented the company during the Bintungan nog gasip bu doladjat, called by the Gukom sog Pito ko Dolungan (Gukom of the Seven Rivers Region) before the start of the Boklug held at the compound of the office of the Pigbogololan nog Subanon so Canatuan on May 17, 2011.

The Gukom sog Pito ko Dolungan is the highest Subanon authority believed to be organized by Apo Manglang, their founding ancestor, around the 15th century and still recognized by the Subanons in the western side of the Zamboanga Peninsula in Mindanao, Philippines.

A Buklog is the Subanon tribe's highest ritual performed for various purposes including thanksgiving, cleansing and reconciliation. The Bintungan nog gasip bu doladjat is a meeting of the Gukom done before the start of Boklug where the rules of conduct and concerns hoped to be addressed by the Boklug are discussed while doing the ritual drinking of the pangasi (rice wine).

"The Boklug that TVIRDI had conducted is called the Gumpia nog Bunwa sog Canatuan. It is TVIRDI's spiritual cleansing ritual and act of offering reconciliation to the people of Canatuan and our ancestors after they admitted the violations of Subanon customs and traditions that resulted to destructions in the ancestral domain and chaos of the community in Canatuan," explained Timuay Noval Lambo, the Gulang Gukom or Chief Elder of the Gukom sog Pito ko Dolungan. "People in the whole domain and guests are invited to witness the event," added Timuay Lambo.

"The Boklug cleansed the spiritual aspects of the violations but does not absolve the violator from all other responsibilities resulting to personal or physical damages. However, the cleansing ritual enjoins the violator to change their ways and contribute to the restoration of harmonious relationship. It also encourages the victim to extend forgiveness based on justice," Timuay Lambo further explained.

Since the year 1997 when TVIRDI got its Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) with the government, Timuay Jose Boy Anoy, the recognized chieftain by the local people, complained to the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) regarding the company's entry without community consent leading to destruction of their ancestral domain and division in the community. He also complained about the NCIP's act of constituting the Siocon Council of Elders (SCoE) that represented his community in negotiating an agreement with TVIRDI.

"The government thru the NCIP is primarily responsible in the chaotic situation in the Subanon community in Canatuan. It was the NCIP who organized the Siocon Council of Elders (SCoE) despite their knowledge that I existed as Timuay of Canatuan," explained Timuay Jose Boy Anoy. "TVIRD recognized and secured the consent to mine sacred Mt. Canatuan from the SCoE on the grounds that NCIP told them to do so," added Timuay Anoy.

In July 2007, feeling hopeless and discriminated by the government, Timuay Boy Anoy along with other concerned organizations, filed a complaint against the Philippine Government in the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) and at the same time, formally requested the Gukom of the Seven Rivers to intervene in his community.

In December 13-15, 2007, the Gukom of the Seven Rivers convened to hear the case filed by Timuay Jose Boy Anoy. The Gukom invited TVIRDI to present their side but TVIRD did not attend the hearing forcing the Gukom to impose a higher penalty after visiting the mining site in Mt. Canatuan. The Gukom imposed a Kosolaan (penalty) of So Pulo bu Duwa Bolos (Twelve Bolos) per cubic unit of land within the domain destroyed or impacted by TVIRDI's mining activity. The unit of measurement to be used is Timuay Boy Anoy's dupa or the length from the tips of his middle fingers of his stretched two arms.

Bolos refers to the roll of cotton cloth whose monetary value is traditionally used as a measure in imposing penalties by the Subanons since time immemorial. A bolos is currently pegged at P1,200. Twelve bolos mean that the pegged value will be multiplied twelve times.

The company was also required to perform a cleansing ritual at their own cost and publicly recognize Timuay Anoy's leadership.

On August 28, 2009, after a series of consultations, Timuay Boy Anoy was formally installed by the Gukom as the legitimate Timuay in the titled ancestral domain in Canatuan. During the event, TVIRD also publicly declared their recognition of Timuay Anoy's leadership and declared its willingness to discuss ways of resolving their conflict with Timuay Anoy and his Council. The act paved the way for further negotiations of the other penalties.

"As Timuay, it is my obligation to resolve whatever conflict that comes to my community and welcomes all those who admit their faults and help them change their ways," explained Timuay Boy Anoy.

"Since TVIRDI admitted its fault and presented themselves to Timuay Boy Anoy whose authority they violated, the imposed penalty could be negotiated to an agreed minimum amount," explained Timuay Fernando Mudai during the Bintungan nog gasip bu doladjat called by the Gukom.

After the necessary computations, the Gukom pronounced the computed amount and asked the representative to present the amount before the formal opening of the Boklug. The Boklug officially started at one o'clock in the morning.

"The Boklug is a spiritual ritual that hopes to help us resolve the other aspects of our conflicts and together restore what has been damaged or lost. We are all enjoined to commit to the healing process, respect each other's views and recognize the leadership of the Pigbogolalan lead by Timuay Boy Anoy," declared Timuay Noval during the Gukom meeting.

Asked if the cleansing ritual and the presentation of the Kosolaan by TVIRDI mean that their complaint to the UNCERD is also resolved, Timuay Noval Lambo explained, "definitely no, because our complaint in the UNCERD is against the violations of the Philippine Government to our rights, customs and traditions. The Buklog that started yesterday is TVIRDI's compliance to the Gukom's imposed penalty."

"Whether we accept or not TVIRDI's atonement, it does not matter to our UNCERD complaint because the fact remains that the Philippine Government violated our rights," added Timuay Noval Lambo.

"We are not imposing penalty nor requiring the government to conduct a cleansing ritual, what we are asking is an admission of their fault and commitment to protect the rights of indigenous peoples, first and foremost," explained Timuay Jose Boy Anoy.


Soliling Eufemio Undadi
Media Relations Officer
Mobile Phone: +63 (0)921-254-6917


Timuay Noval L. Lambo
Gulang Gukom
Mobile Phone: +63 (0)926-485-9820

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