Law and disorder: Justice for Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines?
In June, we reported a victory for the Subanon of Western Mindanao, with the closure of Lupa Pigegetawan Mining Co. at Bayog (See: The IPs strike back: the struggle of Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines).
This, however, is the Philippines - and for each hard-fought victory for local communities, there is increased repression. This seems especially true for the Subanon. In Bayog, people are now fleeing armed security from two mining firms, including Lupa Pigegetawan Mining (which seems not to have given up its claim). Despite a municipal resolution calling for the security forces to disarm, the police have not felt able or been willing to intervene.
In other parts of the lands of the Subanon, a local community protest has been outlawed in favour of a mining company. The police ensured a peaceful picket was dismantled in Midsalip.
On the other hand, a victory was gained against the Canadian TVI Pacific when it was instructed to stop its illegal road construction in another part of Bayog.
Finally, in the north of Luzon, the Chairperson of the government body responsible for Indigenous Peoples (the NCIP) has emphasised that she considers the community's initial FPIC rejection of Royalco (backed by Vale) as final.
An investigation into the NCIP's acceptance of an attempt to force (part of) the community to change the decision found "irregularities", and the Chair has noted she sees this case as a test of her new leadership. See: Philippine indigenous peoples consent recognised over mining claims
Indigenous Congressman Outraged By Judgment for Mining Company
Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM)
Press Release (edited)
1 July 2011
Quezon City - Philippines-Congressman Teddy Brawner Baguilat  and civil society groups expressed outrage with a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) released by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Aurora Branch 30 on June 16, 2011. The order favored the mining corporation conducting drilling operations in Midsalip, Zamboanga del Sur, in the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines. Philippine National Police (PNP) were instructed by the TRO to extend legal assistance to MMSON Mining and Exploration Corporation, one of six mining companies seeking to operate in mining tenements in the area.
|Police enforce TRO at Midsalip mining protest. Source: KTO|
Alyansa Tigil Mina  national coordinator, Jaybee Garganera said, "This is weird. Instead of hearing the Motion for Reconsideration opposing the TRO filed on behalf of defendants belonging to environmental groups including the indigenous group Kesalabuukan Tupusumi Organization (KTO), the RTC Judge decided to Order the people to stop ‘harassing the mining operators bringing in drilling equipment and bulldozers'" to Midsalip. Garganera said that the TRO effectively puts on hold the right of indigenous peoples to protest and their right to assemble. "This is the bias of the RTC Court and many the local government units in the Zamboanga Peninsula!", Garganera concluded.
Kesalabuukan Tupusumi Organization, the local community organization of the Subaanens of Midsalip, Zamboanga del Sur, is focused on environmental protection and preservation of cultural identity. They continue to call for a moratorium on mining, especially in their ancestral lands and the area designated as a national Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) .
"On June 29, at around 9am, some 60 policemen accompanied employees of MMSON Mining and Exploration Corporation bringing drilling equipment to the exploration site," said KTO spokesperson Wilma Tero. 
Congressional Representative Teodoro Brawner Baguilat Jr., Chairman of the Congressional Committee on National Cultural Communities  and convenor of Consultative Group of Indigenous Peoples (CGIP) said, "It is inconceivable to think that the very same institution, the courts, who are supposed to be the bastion for protecting peoples' rights, is the one who restricted the rights of the Midsalip indigenous peoples to protest against mining."
Baguilat further asked, "And why are police men accompanying the mining company? I have visited the place and the people are peaceful. There is no possibility of violence. We will ask the cabinet Secretary Jesse Robredo for the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to look into why the PNP brought excessive force into the area and also validate if the actions of the local government there are ethical," upon knowledge of Tero's report.
Tero added, "We travelled for two hours to attend the court hearing, but the court does not hear what we are saying. What the Subanen want is for our land and our watershed area to be protected, because if mining destroys the Mt. Sugarloaf Ranges, the livelihood of people in Midsalip and surrounding areas will be gravely affected." Tero also asserted that their territory is located in a geohazard area and that they are prone to natural disasters. She also observed that the court appeared to be refusing to hear them because they are biased in favor of the mining company. "We would like to know why we who are protecting our environment are being treated as criminals, while the mining company is being assisted by the agencies of government."
Fr Frank Nally, a Columban priest who worked in Midsalip in the 1980 and 1990s, stated that he was not surprised that the Court issued the Restraining Order against the people. Indeed he said that the Supreme Court of the Philippines sold out the people and undermined the Philippine Constitution by declaring that it was legal for foreigners to 100% own mining tenements in the Philippines. He said that he had been at a mining road show in London where the then Speaker of the House boasted at how the executive branch of the government were able to get the Supreme Court to reverse their decision against the Indigenous Peoples. "It is only People Power that works here. There is too much greed by those who do know what they are doing."
For more information:
Wilma Tero, Spokesperson of Kesalabuukan Tupusumi Organization (KTO), Midsalip, Zamboanga del Sur, Philippines
Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator, (0927) 761.76.02 Manila, Philippines
Farah Sevilla, ATM Policy & Advocacy Officer, (0915) 331.33.61 Manila, Philippines
Peaceful picket against mining in midsalip 18 October 2010 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rltATz5t914
2 Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) is an alliance of mining-affected communities and their support groups of NGOs/POs and other civil society organizations who are opposing the aggressive promotion of large-scale mining in the Philippines.
3 Conservation Outcomes Philippines 26 September 2006 - http://www.cepf.net/Documents/philippines_map.pdf
5 See NATIONAL CULTURAL COMMUNITIES COMMITTEE - http://www.congress.gov.ph/committees/. The Committee deals with all matters directly and principally relating to national cultural communities and the development of predominantly cultural community areas.
Canadian mining firm told to stop road construction
By Tito N. Fiel
2 July 2011
PAGADIAN CITY, Philippines - Citing the need to protect the environment, a regional trial court here on Friday ordered the Canadian mining company TVI Resources to halt its road construction project and similar activities in Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur.
Records of the case show that local residents had accused TVI of destroying naturally grown trees and rubber trees in the construction of a road that would connect the villages of Dipili, Pulang Bato and Depore.
TVI had obtained permission from the Bayog town council for the project but residents filed a civil suit against the mining company, accusing it of destruction of the environment and damaging their livelihood.
They said TVI lacked the necessary permit to construct the road and did not even consult them, especially the affected land owners.
Company representatives admitted that they did not have an Environmental Compliance Certificate.
The residents asked Acting Executive Judge Romeo Descallar to issue a temporary restraining order against TVI's road building and other activities in the affected villages.
On Friday, Descallar said that based on the results of the hearings conducted, "the court finds that there is an extreme urgency for the issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order."
He said that "TVI has continuously cleared and bulldozed the lands in the area, thus causing irreparable damage to the environment, including the rubber trees and natural grown trees thereon."
Descallar said the TRO was intended "to prevent grave injustice and irreparable injury against the interest of the herein plaintiffs."
"The court hereby issues a restraining order against respondents Toronto Ventures Inc. and its officers and privies from further constructing or bulldozing a road in Barangay Dipili and Pulang Bato going to Sitio (sub-village) Balabag, Depore, Bayog Zamboanga del Norte," the order said.
Meanwhile, the Zamboanga del Sur prosecutor's office initiated proceedings against TVI for the illegal cutting of trees in Bayog in connection with the road-building project.
Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Lucio O. Tan Jr. said they "found probable cause to conduct a preliminary investigation" against TVI for violation of forestry laws.
TVI was asked to answer the charges "within 10 days from receipt" of the summons sent out Friday.
TVI is one of about a dozen mining companies operating in Bayog, a mineral-rich town of Zamboanga del Sur.
Closed mine firm's terror reign prompts flight
Philippine Daily Inquirer
30 June 2011
BAYOG, Zamboanga del Sur - Guards of a mining firm that had been ordered closed for illegal operations have been ordered by their officers to stay put, raising tension in a village here and prompting residents to flee their homes.
Subanen residents started leaving their homes in Barangay Conacon after guards of AY76 Security Agency, hired by mining firm Lupa Pigegetawan (Lupa), refused to leave the area despite an order by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the provincial government shutting down the firm's operations for lack of permit.
Lupa is owned by Manuel Go of Cebu Mining and Management Corp., which has a partnership with China Metallurgical Group for Mineral Resources and Development. Its president is Absalon Alcorin, a Mandaya from Davao.
According to Bayog Mayor Leonardo Babasa, Subanen residents were fleeing for fear that guards of Lupa would clash with those of another mining firm, Bayog 9 Metal Corp., which has obtained a license to operate in the area.
A cache of assault rifles, such as AK-47s and Armalites, had been turned over to police after they were seized from guards of AY76, authorities said.
However, guards of AY76 returned to the site with another set of firearms, mostly assault rifles.
Babasa said residents fear violence could flare up between guards of AY76 and 24 Oras, the security agency hired by Bayog 9, as Lupa illegally occupied a site licensed to Bayog.
Timuay Lucenio Manda, Conacon village chief, said at least 30 families had left for fear of getting caught in the crossfire.
He said the tension also stalled the opening of classes in the village's primary and daycare schools as parents refused to send their children to their classes.
Babasa said he already ordered the town police, headed by Insp. Daniel Pel-Ey, to remove the guards of the two rival security agencies from Conacon "for the general welfare of the people and maintenance of peace and order."
Pel-Ey said a notice had been served on managers of the two security agencies in the area.
Former Army Capt. Audie Tukloy, of AY76, said their order from retired Brig. Gen. Alexander Yapching, owner of AY76, was "to hold the line."
Bayog 9 Metal representative Richard Lapira said their security forces would only leave Conacon once AY76 guards had left the area. Tito N. Fiel, Inquirer Mindanao
NCIP says Bakun mining controversy a closed case
By Jimmy Laking
Baguio Midland Courier
26 June 2011
Chairperson Brigit Zenaida Pawid of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples last week said the controversy surrounding the exploration activities of the Royalco Mining in Gambang, Bakun is a "closed case" in so far as the NCIP is concerned.
"They had been issued a cease and desist order and that should settle it," she said in a meeting with representatives of various indigenous peoples' organization last week at the provincial capitol.
She said the case of Royalco will be her test as chair of the commission.
"But they have not presented any new argument so far," she said, adding that the company cannot insist on having separate Free, Prior, and Informed Consent process in one applied area.
She said the only option left for the company is to go to court.
Fausto Maliones, president of the Gambang Indigenous Peoples Organization, told the commissioner that villagers have not eased up on their vigilance to prevent the entry of mining equipment in the community.
"Our men folk have been alternating in guarding the entrances to the village to prevent exploration from proceeding," he said.
Oswaldo Pangayan, an officer of the Palina Indigenous Peoples Organization in Kibungan, told the NCIP official that majority of the inhabitants are opposed to any form of mining activity, including exploration.
He said the community is prepared to resist the Da Gama Mining in case it insists on proceeding with its exploration,
"They were asking us if they could drill just three holes on the ground but even that we did not allow," he said.
He said the community's fear that mining activity will destroy their rice fields and the environment is what has made firm their opposition to mining.
"In fairness, there are five landowners who are in favor of Da Gama but they comprise the minority as compared to the many who are opposed," he said.