The IPs strike back: the struggle of Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines
The mining industry in the Philippines has been busy fighting its community-based and activist critics (especially around the proposed 10 million signature petition against mining in Palawan). Indigenous peoples particularly have been rallying against this wave of propaganda, and there have been some notable local victories.
One of the key industry actions was to send 'false leaders', associated with the mining company MacroAsia in Palawan, to Manila to speak out for the company. This has forced genuine indigenous leaders to take the same route to denounce these actions. The Congressman Teddy Baguilat, who is also head of the House Committee on National Cultural Communities (i.e. Indigenous Peoples), gave a privilege speech to support their actions, which highlighted a number of other problems indigenous peoples face with mining companies.
On the island of Mindanao, indigenous peoples in the eastern area of Surigao have come together to lodge legal protests against false consents given, while in the West they are celebrating the forced removal of a so-called 'indigenous mining company', called Lupa Pigegetawan Mining Co.
It also looks like the Government will declare 'no-go zones' for mining, including the island of Sibuyan (which would be a massive reward to the islanders who have been struggling to stop destruction to its unique environment).
Palawan tribal folk hit use of fake leaders
By Cynthia D. Balana
Philippine Daily Inquirer
7 June 2011
Indigenous leaders from Palawan on Monday night condemned what they said was the use of "fake" tribal leaders by MacroAsia Corp. and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to undermine procedures for the approval of mining operations in protected tribal lands.
In a press conference at the House of Representatives, the tribal leaders decried as "manipulative" the use of 30 "fake" tribal chieftains who went to Manila recently to express their support for mining activities in Palawan by the Lucio Tan-owned MacroAsia group.
"By creating ad hoc tribal leaders, the NCIP and MacroAsia have bluntly disregarded local decision-making processes that are customarily facilitated by elders and so-called panglima (traditional leaders)," said Artiso Mandawa, chair of Ancestral Land Domain Watch (Aldaw).
Mandawa said that none of the 30 so-called tribal leaders lived in their ancestral domain. He said 15 of them did not even belong to the Palawan ethnic group while eight others were only "half-blood Palawanon."
Of the remaining seven, two come from other parts of Palawan and five from the lowland, and "have no connections whatsoever with the upland communities to be directly impacted by MacroAsia mining activities."
Ifugao Rep. Teddy Brawner Baguilat, chair of the committee on national cultural communities, and Laguna Rep. Dan Fernandez, chair of the committee on ecology, met with the tribal leaders of Palawan at the House and promised to conduct separate inquiries into the matter.
Tribesmen seek kalikasan writ vs mining companies in Surigao
By Joel San Juan
30 May 2011
A PETITION for a writ of kalikasan was filed on Monday by tribal communities before the Supreme Court (SC) seeking to stop the "illegal and irresponsible" nickel mining operations in Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur.
In a petition, tribal groups cited the destruction of the environment and health concerns in seeking to prohibit the respondents-Taganito Mining Corp., Platinum Group Metals Corp., Oriental Synergy Mining Corp., Shenzhou Mining Group Corp., Marceventures Mining and Development Corp.
Also named as respondents are Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples Region 13 Director Dominador Gomez, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Region 13 Director Alilo Ensomo Jr., Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) Region 13 Director Ester Olavides and the provincial governments of Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur.
The petitioners include the Tribal Coalition of Mindanao Inc., Daging Manobo Sectoral Tribal Council, Kinalablaban Sectoral Tribal Council, Urbistondo Manobo-Mamanwa Sectoral Tribal Council and Cabangahan Tribal Community-Manobo Tribe.
The petitioners claimed that the respondents failed to implement a true environmental compliance certificate to open pit nickel mining in Claver, Surigao del Norte, to Carascal, Surigao del Sur.
They added that the mining companies failed to institute measures to protect the environment, such as the installation of sedimentation or siltation dams or barriers to prevent siltation of rivers, creeks and coastal waters in the said towns.
They further claimed that the mining companies have utilized the coastal waters, rivers and creeks either as nickel extended siltation dam or place for nickel stock piles, destroying the marine ecosystem in the area of more or less 50 kilometers stretch from Claver, Surigao del Norte, to Cantilan, Surigao del Sur.
"Mangroves, corals, fishes and shells died because of extremely high levels of nickel found in the coastal waters, rivers and creeks. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources-MGB-EMB, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples and local government units deliberately ignored these serious environmental concerns," the petitioners said.
The writ of kalikasan, a legacy left by former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, is a special civil action which may be resorted to on behalf of persons whose constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology is violated, or threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or private individual or entity, involving environmental damage of such magnitude as to prejudice the life, health or property of inhabitants.
CHR to probe mining ‘abuses' in Surigao provinces
By Franklin A. Caliguid
5 June 2011
BUTUAN CITY, Agusan del Sur, Philippines - The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has formed a team to look into reported abuses committed by multinational mining companies operating in the twin provinces of Surigao.
Human Rights chair Loretta Ann Rosales said the team would look into irregularities in the acquisition of mine permits, displacements of the lumad (indigenous communities) and environmental destruction.
"The CHR will form a comprehensive monitoring team and investigate these claims of abuses by mining firms," Rosales told the Philippine Daily Inquirer during a visit here Thursday.
She vowed to uphold the rights of the lumad communities and to address their grievances.
"I guarantee them that the CHR will look after them," Rosales said.
On Monday, the Tribal Coalition of Mindanao Inc. (Tricom) asked the Supreme Court to cancel all mining permits, licenses and agreements granted to five Chinese mining companies operating in Surigao del Sur and Surigao del Norte.
Tricom claimed that Taganito Mining Corp., Platinum Group Metals Corp., Oriental Synergy Mining Corp., Shenzhou Mining Group Corp. and Marcventures Mining and Development Corp. used spurious tribal consent documents to secure licenses and permits.
Tribal communities were also uprooted and dislocated as a result of the mining activities, Tricom said.
Tricom alleged that open pit mines operated by the mining companies have posed danger to the environment and the health of the lumad communities in Claver, Surigao del Norte and the towns of Carascal and Cantilan in Surigao del Sur.
Mamanwa tribal chieftain Alfredo Olorico reminded President Benigno Aquino III to fulfill his campaign promise of a transparent and accountable government by canceling anomalous mine agreements, permits, licenses and agreements in the province.
"The President must intervene now because we were duped through the machinations, deceit and manipulations by government officials and mining interests," he said.
Sought for comment, the newly appointed head of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) in Caraga region called the CHR investigation timely and expected the agency to ferret out the truth.
"I'm very much open to any investigation, but the CHR must start its probe at our central office because the problem started there," Dominador Gomez said.
He admitted that the process of acquiring consent from tribal communities in connection to mining permits "has been marred with irregularities and rampant violations of the Indigenous People's Rights Act of 1997."
"There were really huge controversies related to the proper enforcement of this consent mechanism during the term of my predecessor. Our lumad brothers were abused and placed at the disadvantage," Gomez told the Inquirer.
Under the law, mining companies seeking to operate within ancestral lands were mandated to secure Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) from lumad communities.
"This consent mechanism supposedly empowers tribal minorities whether to accept or reject mining in their lands," he said.
But Gomez said in Caraga, at least 20 mining companies had questionable FPICs and their licenses have been placed under review.
He said the NCIP even started a crackdown on erring NCIP personnel, who have reportedly colluded with mining companies to produce spurious FPICs.
Illegal mining in Zamboanga del Sur closed
Subanen leader rejoices over province decision vs ‘stubborn' company
Philippine Daily Inquirer
3 June 2011
BAYOG, Zamboanga del Sur-The Subanen community in Barangay Conacon here said they were overjoyed that the provincial government had finally put a stop to the operations of Lupa Pigegetawan Mining Co. (LPMC), which they described as a stubborn mining firm.
LPMC, which has been operating in the village for years now, has repeatedly defied a cease and desist order issued by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau in Western Mindanao against its illegal extraction of mineral ore.
The latest of the order was dated April 15, which the company had also ignored.
On Friday last week, acting on complaints against its continued illegal extraction of ore, the provincial government of Zamboanga del Sur finally closed the lid on LPMC's operations.
Lawyer Deohnar Ceniza, of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resource Office, led a team of policemen and National Bureau of Investigation agents in padlocking LPMC's operations.
In his after-operations report, Ceniza said the team seized tons of ore and rocks ready for transport from LPMC's compound in Conacon and Poblacion villages here.
The raiding team also confiscated keys for hauler trucks and other vehicles owned by the company to prevent them from being used.
"We are happy that the rule of law has finally triumphed," said Timuay Lucenio Manda of Pegsalabukan Gukom de Bayog, a group of Subanen.
LPMC has been passing itself off as a company formed by Subanen natives to explore their ancestral domain areas for minerals.
But based on documents the Inquirer has obtained, one of its owners is a Manuel Go of Cebu Mining and Management Corp. Cebu Mining has a partnership with China Metallurgical Group for Mineral Resources and Development.
Its president is Absalon Alcorin, a Mandaya lumad from Davao.
Manda, also Conacon village chief, said from the start, he has already been claiming that LPMC is not owned by the Subanens.
He said now that the operation of the company has stopped, Subanens also wanted authorities to disband its security force or order them to leave.
"We are demanding that the authorities control the entry and presence of heavily armed guards in our ancestral domain," he said.
Manda said the presence of LPMC's heavily armed guards made the Subanen community look like a war zone. "Our people fear their presence," he said.
The armed security guards, numbering more than 30, were contracted by AY76 Security Agency, which is being run by retired general Alexander Yapching.
Last week, Yapching denied his guards were intimidating the Subanens.
He said "all the security personnel assigned at Lupa Pigegetawan are 100-percent Subanens."
"They were hired to protect their ancestral domain," said Yapching. But Manda said AY76 was only protecting LPMC's interest. Tito Fiel, Inquirer Mindanao
Gov't considers 'closed-to-mining' policy on mapped-out areas
By Melody M. Aguiba
21 May 2011
MANILA, Philippines - The government is adopting a policy closing mining identified areas found suitable for other uses such as tourism in an aim to maximize their long-term economic benefits.
Two areas already identified by the DENR-Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) as closed to mining are the Sibuyan Island and the stretch of shoreline from Ternate, Cavite to Nasugbu, Batangas.
"There's an instruction from the (DENR) secretary (Ramon J.P. Paje) for us to have a policy delineating areas closed to mining," said MGB Director Leo L. Jasareno in an interview.
Sibuyan, a small island off Romblon, is known for the Mt. Guiting-Guiting Natural Park which has a status similar to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
"Where the area is very rich in biodiversity, and the mineral deposit is only small like in Mt. Guiting Guiting which is surrounded by around 20 coral sites, our decision there is ‘no to mining.'
Will you mine a small deposit in a small island and destroy corals there? Mining must be worth it," he said.
The same policy is true in beach areas in Cavite-Batangas where government received numerous applications for mining quarries. This area across the China Sea -- appreciated for its mountainous wilds where some resorts and tourism activities have been developed - presents itself with better tourism options. "That's a forest area that's barely inhabited.We'll declare that as closed to mining."
However, in Palawan where there are operating mines as the nickel mining in Rio Tuba, the DENR explains mining activities are monitored so that they cannot exist at the expense of environmental preservation.
"We explained to (ABS-CBN Foundation managing director) Ms. Gina Lopez that our policy is not mining at all costs. If a company does not have a social license to operate and people do not approve of it, it cannot operate," Jasareno said. ABS-CBN has earlier aired ads opposing mining in Palawan.
MGB is also supportive of restrictions in quarrying in a Rizal protected area - Montalban. The suburban town should have been closed to quarrying in 2004 after a five-year phase-out policy released by DENR in 1998 but where quarrying continues at the expense of the environment.
Privilege Speech of Ifugao Rep. Teddy Brawner Baguilat
House of Representatives
6 June 2010
I would like to address you today on the various violations to the civil and political and collective rights my fellow indigenous peoples in the country brought to the attention of my committee. Majority of the said cases that we investigated involves irregularities in the implementation of the FPIC requirement of many mining applications and the adverse impacts of mining to indigenous communities.
Through our strong struggle to defend our lands, we have survived the colonial rule of the Spaniards and the Japanese. But our communities have continuously been subjected to development aggression and oppressive policies that left us disenfranchised and dispossessed of our lands to which our life is rooted in. This is evidenced by the fact that indigenous communities are essentially still at the fringes of society economically, socially and politically.
In the history of our country, congress has only recently acknowledged and recognized indigenous peoples rights with the passage of RA 8371 the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997. The government also voted in favor of the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in September 2007. But even with the IPRA and the UNDRIP, our survival as indigenous peoples is all the more threatened and violated at present because of the relentless pursuit of corporations and the government for access and control over our lands, territories and resources.
At present, the government's policy on mineral resources and its program on mining in particular is one of the biggest threats to peace and development in indigenous peoples territories. The government's obsession for "mining at all costs" stems from the perpetuation of PGMA Executive Order 270-A issued on January 2004 which provided for guiding principles for the revitalization of the mining industry. This EO has led government agencies to violate the indigenous peoples right to Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) recognized in the IPRA but undermined by none other than the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) with their issuance and implementation of the 2006 NCIP Guidelines on Free, Prior and Informed Consent which has been criticized by indigenous peoples leaders and their support groups as more favorable to mining corporations and violative of the right to self determination of indigenous peoples.
Mr. Speaker and fellow colleagues in the Congress, in the past 10 months that the National Cultural Communities committee had been conducting congressional and on site hearings on the impacts of mining to indigenous communities there has been an observed trend that mining causes conflict among the affected communities thus breaking their strong socio-cultural ties.
A case at point is the conflict in the royalty share of the directly and indirectly affected Mamanwa indigenous communities by the mining operations of Taganito Nickel in Claver, Surigao del Sur. To date, there have been reports of tribal killings among the warring communities.
Another observed cause of conflict is the flawed/defective implementation of the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) requirement for indigenous communities. In many cases, regulating agencies either bypassed this requirement or the implementing agency in connivance with companies manipulated the acquisition of consent of the affected communities. Examples of manipulation that came out during the hearings were the creation of fake tribal councils, misrepresentation of affected indigenous communities by non-IP organizations for their vested interests, and bribing of indigenous leaders among others.
The creation of fake tribal councils was brought out in the case filed by the Subanens in Midsalip, Zamboanga del Sur where the GAMI Coporation organized pro-mining Subanens and used them to represent the community in the negotiations and MOA signing.
Mr. Speaker, my dear colleagues, let me also highlight the very specific case of the Pal'awan tribe in the province of Palawan. Many of us here have witnessed the extensive media coverage of the two sides of the mining issue there and the Save Palawan Movement and the Chamber of Mines have been doing their best to present their case. But I am disappointed that not enough energy and effort have been extended to understand and resolve a very fundamental issue - that of the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of the indigenous communities that will be affected by the mining operations. The issue seems complicated, especially when it was reported last week that more than thirty (30) individuals went here to Manila and claimed they are IP leaders and demanded that NCIP issue a Certificate of Pre-condition in order to allow mining operations to proceed in areas that cover Mt. Matalingahan in Brooke's Pt., Palawan. Because of this move, our visitors here - nine IP leaders from the Pal'awan tribe - were forced to travel a long way and to leave their families and livelihoods behind. They traveled here to prove to NCIP, to prove to DENR, to prove to the mining companies, that they are the legitimate IP leaders, and that they have never given their consent for the entry of mining operations in their areas.
As Chairperson of the House Committee on National Cultural Communities, I take it as personal responsibility and a social duty, to give them a voice while they are here in Manila.
Aside from the conflicts, mining also causes food insecurity to affected communities and has caused the destruction of their pristine forests and agricultural lands. A case at point is the long running operations of Lepanto Mining Company in Benguet that had wrought environmental destruction with one school literally swallowed to the ground when one mountain caved in. Downstream areas in Mankayan are also affected by the mine tailings. In the municipality of Cervantes, their river is polluted by toxic chemicals coming from the mines and had caused the drying up of the rice fields near the river bank and stunted growth of their rice plants. The leakage from the mine tailings dam had destroyed the biodiversity of the river and killed many fishes and eels that were the staple food of the communities living near the banks.
Mining at its worst has also led to the killing of some of our key indigenous leaders. Among those killed for their opposition to mining are Marcus Bangit of Kalinga who was killed by unidentified gunmen when he was en route to Baguio with his son.
There is also the case of Florita Caya, General Manager of the Unified Tribal Council of Elders, who was shot at the back of her head on 27 April of this year that instantly killed her. Nang Flor is the third general manager of of UTCEL to be killed by unidentified persons in a span of two years. According to UTCEL members, the leaders have received threats to stop their activities, including keeping mining operations out of their ancestral domains, prior to their assassination.
This has become a vicious cycle where communities who struggle against encroachments into their territories would almost always face threats to their lives because of the onslaught of large scale mining. There is no doubt in the connection of these human rights violations with the corporate obsession for mineral resources and the government fixation for revenues. Obviously we have let this alarming situation spiral out of control and this must stop. We must value the lives of our citizens specially the long suffering indigenous peoples above they loose change that we try to get from handing over our mineral resources to foreign extractives corporations.
It is time that we go back to correcting the historical injustices against indigenous peoples, strengthen the respect and protection of indigenous peoples right to self determination specially with respect to their right to free, prior and informed consent. It is also time to take off the long standing colonial framework in mineral extraction and institute a rational needs based minerals governance that would cater to our sustainable development as a nation.
With this and to give justice to the struggles of my indigenous brothers and sisters, I call on my fellow legislators to urgently act on the consolidation of the three mining bills that would repeal the Mining Act of 1995. I also call on President Simeon Benigno Aquino III to immediately issue an executive order calling for the moratorium on mining while we are at the process of improving our mining policies. This is in line to the House Resolution 00528 that I filed last year which has not yet been acted upon.
I also call on the executive branch to conduct a thorough investigation of the impacts of mining vis a vis its contribution to the economy of the country and to also conduct an investigation on the killings related to mining and hold those responsible accountable.
To conclude, we as indigenous peoples will persist with our struggle to defend our land, territories and resources from development aggression. We will not waver as this will be our legacy to the future generations of IPs.
Aiza Liza P. Namingit
Office of Rep. Teddy Brawner Baguilat
Lone District, Ifugao
Rm. 315 North Wing, House of Representatives
Batasan Hills, Quezon City
Tel. No. (02)9315106