MAC: Mines and Communities

Bishop of Dipolog Condemns the Legal Harassment of Subanon People by TVI

Published by MAC on 2004-08-12

Bishop of Dipolog Condemns the Armed and Legal Harassment of Subanon People by TVI

Press Release - DIOPIM Committee on Mining Issues (DCMI)

August 12, 2004

Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte, Philippines – Twelve residents, mostly Indigenous Subanon people, were jailed yesterday by the police after TVI Resource Development Philippines, a Canadian mining firm, filed cases against them.

Bishop José R. Manguiran of the Diocese of Dipolog, who has for many years advocated against environmental exploitation at the expense of affected communities, categorically condemned the incident.

One of those arrested was Timuay (or Chieftain) Macario Salacao, a President of the Siocon Federation of Tribal Councils. Timuay Salacao, 70 years old, was one of those wounded when TVI's armed Special CAFGU Armed Auxilliaries (SCAA) shot at people protesting against the company’s planned open cast mine at Sitio Canatuan, here on 17th March, this year.

At around 3:00pm on 11th August, the arresting police officers served the warrant of arrest to the twelve individuals, who where staying at the Catholic Parish Convent in Siocon, awaiting their arrest together with around 800 supporters, including Subanon, Christians and Muslims.

The two arresting officers brought the accused to the Siocon police station for questioning, and the supporters paraded and followed the accused, condemning TVI’s shameless deed to legitimate oppostion.

At around 4:00pm, the supporters made an ecumenical prayer headed by Bishop Manguiran with the Iglesia Ni Cristo, seventh day Adventist, Muslims, Subanon and other religious groups.

After the ecumenical prayer and some messages of support from members of the Siocon Municipal Council, Bishop Manguiran condemned TVI for their armed and legal harassment against the poor people of Siocon, especially the Indigenous People Subanon.

“The situation of Siocon is like that of a family who have a visitor. The visitor abused the house, but when the owner of the house protested, the visitor filed a case against the family. This is the situation of the people of Siocon,” Bishop Manguiran explained.

"This is a upside-down situation" he said. "Because those people who are sacrificing their lives for the protection of creation against its destruction are suffering and are now in jail, while the nothing happens to the genuine destroyer, which is TVI, who claim to be a responsible miner."

"In Philippine society there’s a big discrepancy, because our government does not even give free college and university education for the farmers who are feeding all the people. While the people whose jobs are to kill or destroy creation get free uniforms, tuition and other privileges", Manguiran lamented.

Mayor Cesar C. Soriano also supported the victims and condemned TVI's forcible and shameless entry into the ancestral domain of the Subanon people.

“There are 42 cases initiated by TVI against me, as they are aiming to oust me from Siocon so that no one could help and support the people who are opposing any form of environmental destruction, especially large-scale mining”, Soriano said.

“TVI has circulated misinformation to the people. That is why I am opposed TVI", the Mayor said.

The Mayor pointed out that "TVI claim of having overwhelming support from Siocon, but that’s not true, because the Local Government of Siocon had clearly stated its position against any form of environmental destruction, including the operation of TVI, through a municipal council resolution."

"The proof that TVI is unacceptable here is that all the political candidates supported and financed by the company during May's election were not supported", stated one of the observers at the ecumenical prayer, who declined to be named.

The twelve residents who were jailed are seen by their supporters as heroes, because of their sacrifice for the common good of Siocon, despite the present consequences.

The following are the protesters who were jailed because of TVI's legal harassment: Godofredo Galos, a Chairperson of Save Siocon Watershed Paradise Movement and President of Siocon Federation of Farmers Association, Mrs. Nenani Aganan, Subanon, Apolonia Bulagao, resident of Sitio Canatuan Siocon.

The others jailed yesterday were: Mr. And Mrs. Nino Davi, Subanon, Timuay Macario Salacao and Julie Lobregas, Subanon; Ofelia Davi of staff of DIOPIM Committee on Mining Issues; Elena Comisas, Subanon and three others.

At present around twenty protesters could be arrested on these charges at any time, although they have declined to go into hiding.

Some participants at the protest were asking why TVI only filed charges against these very poor people and declined to file a case against the priests and other prominent people were participating at the protest action. TVI's action in selecting these poor people for arrest is seen as a clear manifestation of harassment against the community’s genuine aspiration for sustainable development.

The charges filed are to do with a picket that started on March 14, this year, when members of the Save Siocon Watershed Paradise Movement staged a protest action at Barangay Pisawak, around 20 kilometers from the mining site of TVI. They successfully prevented the heavy equipment of Alnor Construction from moving towards the mining site. Most of the people of Siocon participated in the protest, because every day and night, three to five barangays were scheduled to man the protest in Pisawak.

But on March 17, TVI's armed SCAA shamelessly shot at the peaceful protesters, and injured four of them. One of those wounded was Timuay Macario Salacao.

On April 17, Alnor Construction finally withdrew its heavy equipment from Siocon towards its home base in Surigao in the Northern part of Mindanao.

But at the end of May this year, TVI filed a case at the Provincial Prosecutors Office in Dipolog City against 33 individuals for alleged violation of section 107 of Republic Act 7942, or the Mining Act of 1995, which stated there had been an “Obstruction of Permitee".

Because of the difficulties of getting legal representation, especially as proposed lawyers were busy after the election, the respondents were not able to answer the charges within the prescribed timeframe of ten days. The judge of the Municipal Trial Circuit Court then issued an arrest warrent against the 33 respondents.

TVI Accused of Failing to provide protection and safety devices for workers

By Tito Natividad Fiel

Sitio Canatuan, Tabayo, Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte, Philippines – Several documents and press releases of TVI Resource Development Philippines Inc., a Canadian mining firm who plan an open cast mine at Sitio Canatuan, have claimed that TVI's purpose is to assist the Philippine Government to perform its program for sustainable development in the field of mining.

But questions are being raised about this by TVI’s employees. The ask how TVI could seriously carry out such an aim when it has failed to provide all the necessary protection and safety devices to its employees, resulting in the contraction of occupational diseases.

In an interview with Rograciano De Casa Jr., a victim of lead poisoning which it is alleged was contracted while working with TVI, he noted that many workers inside the company have suffered several diseases and have not received proper attention, especially as they fear they will be dismissed from work if it came out into open.

On August 6, this year, Mr. De Casa lodged a formal complaint to the National Labor Relation Commission (NLRC), Sub-Regional Arbitration Branch No. 9 in Dipolog City against TVI.

The case against the company, docketed NLRC Case No. 09-08-15051-2004, is “for failure to provide adequate protection and safety devices to its employees resulting the contraction of occupational disease.

In a four page complaint of Mr. De Casa said, “TVI is doing mining here by virtue of Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) No. 054-96-IX issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources on October 23, 1996 on an area situated within the ancestral lands of the Subanon People.”

The complaint notes that in “the MPSA under section XVI number 16.3, the contractor hereby agrees and obliges itself to comply with the provisions of Philippine Mining Act, its Implementing Rules and Regulations and other relevant laws and regulations.”

But “instead of performing its obligation to comply other relevant laws and regulation like the Labor Code of the Philippines, TVI failed to follow the law by failing to provide adequate protection and safety devices to the complainant while performing welding inside the used drums, tanks that caused to contract occupational disease or lead poisoning,” complaint said.

The complainant confirms that TVI never provided him with the necessary protection and safety devices, like a mask and exhaust fan to protect him from inhaling the fumes from the welding rod inside the drum and tanks. De Casa also maintains that due to TVI’s failure to provide adequate protection and safety devices, he himself contracted lead poisoning from the fumes of the welding rod, as was shown in laboratory tests.

He noted that when the company hired him to work as a welder/mechanic, he was in good health.

“For the record, I have never contracted lead poisoning before joining with TVI", the complaint added.

The complainant said that in addition to the company’s failure, it violates other specific provisions of the Labor Code of the Philippines.

TVI failed to comply with Article 157, Book IV, which cites that it shall be the duty of every employer to furnish his employees in any locality with free medical and dental attendance and facilities consisting of the services of a fulltime registered nurse when the number of employees exceeds fifty, especially when the employer maintains a hazardous workplace like mining.

“Instead of employing a qualified one, at the time when I worked with them, TVI employed a nurse with questionable qualifications, as I did not see any proof that the said nurse has passed any nursing license examination,” complaint said.

The second provision of the code that has been violated by TVI he added is Article 161, Book IV, which he cites in his complaint, that “it shall be the duty of any employer to provide all the necessary assistance to ensure the adequate and immediate medical and dental attendance and treatment to an injured or sick employees in the case of emergency.”

But TVI willfully failed to bring him to the hospital and provide all necessary assistance when he became sick with lead poisoning. Instead it forced him to seek an alternative assistance from the church, that brought his relief from lead poisoning through a detoxification process in Manila which reduced the lead content from his body to five (5) microgram per deciliter from ninety eight (98) microgram per deciliter during the height of lead contraction.

Due to the above legal violations, the complainant insisted of NLRC that TVI be punished as provided in the implementing rules and regulation of the labor code of the country.

In a four page affidavit, Mr. De Casa noted that on November 18, 2003, TVI effectively hired him as casual employee and welder/mechanic for three months at their mine workings. Everyday he welded the cyanide tank, scrubber, ball mill drums, and mercury traps of the said mining operation.

The affidavit notes that when part of his welding tasks include working inside a tank that is approximately 4x5 feet with an approximate entrance of 12 x 12 inches

“I started in welding the above-stated tanks and other specified drums and traps on November 20, 2003 and after work in the afternoon I felt bad and vomiting,” he said in an affidavit.

Everyday he was welding inside the tanks he felt the same illness as what he had initially felt on November 20.

On November 23, he went to the company’s clinic and met its head nurse Charity Balijado, but he was instructed to meet Mrs. Lydia Dandana, company’s assistant first aider.

Dandana gave him three paracetamol and other medicine for the stomach ache, but when he took the said medicines, he felt no better.

“I had worked everyday, but I suffered from vomiting and headaches after work in the afternoon,” he continues.

However the worst thing happened on January 15 this year, when he welded inside the ball mill drum for five hours and 15 minutes in the morning.

“When I went off duty at 11:45am, I went home at noon but I felt it was hard to breath and suffered a headache and having blurred vision” he said.

He did not go back to work in the afternoon, but at around 4:00pm of the said date, a TVI worker passed by at his home and he called to that person and shared what had happened to him and asked that it be reported to the clinic.

At around 5:00 p.m. he was picked up by the head nurse and other TVI workers and brought to the clinic.

The head nurse checked his blood pressure and it was found out that he had high blood pressure, so a medicine for blood pressure reduction was given to him.

The complainant went to sleep at TVI’s clinic, when he was still being observed, but his blood pressure was reduced only in the next day at around 4:00am.

At 6:00am on January 16, this year, he went home, then backed to the company’s clinic at around 7:30am to get the result, but the nurse concluded it was just high blood pressure.

After telling him that he had high blood pressure, the nurse checked his blood again, but it was found out that his blood pressure was reduced to 100 over 70, and the nurse gave him ferrous sulfate and paracetamol.

Because of his doubts of the said medication, since he still suffered from difficulties in breathing, he asked the nurse to recommend him for a check up by the specialist doctor.

The nurse recommended, through a letter addressed to Ver Recaforte, who was in-charge of his financial matters at the company, to avail of financial assistance from the company for further medical enquiries.

But when he met Mr. Recaforte, the latter shouted at him in an angry manner, and unilaterally concluded that he was just suffering from stress, all that was needed was rest, according to his affadavit.

Due to the unfavorable action of the management concerning his health, he took the initiative himself to go to the Municipal Health Officer of Siocon, Dampces T. Bahandi.

He told Dr. Bahandi all about his work with TVI, and the doctor suspected that he was suffering lead poisoning, but could not confirm this in the absence of testing equipment. He was referred to the Northern Mindanao Medical Center for a check up, but he was denied due to the absence again of the correct equipment for testing.

Starting to get seriously worried for the state of his health, he asked assistance from the Catholic Church through the DIOPIM Committee on Mining Issues, a committee concerned with the environment, especially around mining issues.

On February 2, the chairperson of DCMI assisted him to go to the Philippine General Hospital in Manila, where he was referred to Dr. Erle S. Castillo, a specialist in Family Medicine/Toxicology.

After checking the job background of Mr. De Casa, the doctor checked his blood pressure and joints. After clinically analyzing the patient, Dr. Castillo concluded that the patient had heavy metal, specifically lead, exposure. The doctor advised Mr. De Casa to undergo a laboratory test to determine the exact level of mercury and lead content contaminating the blood of the complainant.

The test results, from Chempro Analytical Services Laboratories Inc. based in Pasig, Manila, on February 12 this year revealed that, “the mercury level of the blood of the patient has the detection limit of 0.1 microgram per deciliter or (ND; DL=0.1).

“Using atomic absorption spectrometry, the lead contamination reached the level of 98 microgram per deciliter, which surpassed the allowable lead contamination of 20 microgram per deciliter,” laboratory result added.

Dr. Castillo told the patient that he had endured the worst level of lead contamination.

“If untreated - the patient was told by Dr. Castillo - that he might suffer a locked jaw and joint problems anytime and if it will reach the brain the patient will suffer comatose”, the affidavit said.

The affidavit further said that the patient needed immediate treatment because if not, the lead will attack the kidney, as well as other organs, of the patient.

Like an abusive visitor who sues the host

Violeta M. Gloria, MindaNews

17 August 2004

ILIGAN CITY -- Dipolog Bishop Jose Maguiran likens the situation in Siocon town as a "family with visitor who abused the house. and when the owner of the house protested, the visitor sued the host."

The bishop said this after TVI Resource Development, Inc., a Canadian mining company operating in Mt. Canatuan, Siocon, got 12 residents who joined a month-long picket in March at Barangay Pisawak to bar the entry of equipment to the mine site, locked up in jail.

They were detained starting at 3:20 p.m. Friday but were freed at 5 p.m. on the same day after Mayor Cesar Soriano helped put up their bail bond of P2,000 each.

Elena Comisas, Nino Davi, Seth Davi, Loloy Tabaya, Ofelia Davi, Mario Torino, Godofredo Galos, Nanida Aganan, Julie Lobrigas, Valentine Sumondod, Apolinia Bulagao and Timuay Macario Salacao were detained at 3:20 p.m. Friday but were freed at 5 p.m. on the same day after Mayor Cesar Soriano helped put up their bail bond of P2,000 each.

They were arrested for violation of Section 107 of Republic Act 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, for alleged "illegal obstruction to permitees or contractors."

This is an upside-down situation because those people who sacrificed lives to protect God's creation from destruction were jailed while nothing happens to the genuine destroyer, which is TVI which claims to be a responsible miner," Maguiran said in a statement sent to MindaNews.

The bishop had repeatedly advocated against environmental exploitation at the expense of communities.

He, along with leaders from the Iglesia Ni Cristo, Seventh Day Adventist, Muslims, Subanon and other religious groups held an ecumenical prayer outside the jail. The bishop joined a protest march to "escort" the arrested villagers from the convent, where they were served their warrants of arrest, to the jail.

"Our bishop condemned TVI for the harassment done against the poor people of Siocon," said Tito Fiel, a worker of DIOPIM (the dioceses and prelatures of Dipolog, Ipil, Ozamiz, Pagadian, Iligan and Marawi) Committee on Mining Issues (DCMI).

Fiel noted that some participants at the March-April picket "were asking why TVI only filed charges against these very poor people and did not sue the religious and other prominent leaders who joined the picket at Pisawak."

"TVI's selective action to sue poor people is a clear manifestation of harassment against the community's genuine aspiration for sustainable development," Fiel said.

Mayor Soriano said the arrest of the 12 was political harassment.

Soriano, who has been among the protesters, said TVI has filed 42 cases against him since he became mayor.

"TVI aimed to oust me from Siocon so that no one could help and support the people who are opposed to any form of environmental destruction, especially large-scale mining," said Soriano, who frequented the anti-TVI barricades in March-April

Soriano and his party won overwhelmingly in the May 10 polls.

"TVI has circulated misinformation to the people. That is why I am opposed to TVI," said Soriano, a former Mindanao bureau chief of ABS-CBN before his election as Siocon mayor.

Soriano also debunked reports TVI has overwhelming support from Siocon residents.

"That alleged public support claimed by TVI is not true because the local government of Siocon had clearly stated its position against any form of environmental destruction, including the operation of TVI, through a municipal council resolution," he said.

TVI boasted recently that Subanens supported their mining operation.

Officials of 26 barangays of Siocon are also opposed to the mining operation, as contained in barangay resolutions.

Timuay Fernado Mudai, one of those three Subanen leaders sued by TVI for allegedly masterminding the ambush on December 26, 2002, said TVI "is wielding a new form of corporate terrorism­a political power to legitimize their operation and to hold total control of their business interest over Mt Canatuan."

"Harassing the residents through threats, forcing them to uproot their residences in Canatuan, militarizing the mountain by hiring hundreds of security forces armed with high powered fire arms, and firing those who protested, and suing those who oppose them -- this is corporate terrorism, too."

But Rey Magpantay, president of TVI, dismissed allegations that TVI is abusive and is engaging in 'corporate terrorism' as "plain headline-grabbing statements."

"I felt that those who lacked information about TVI or those who declare false information are those with vested interests when we will be evicted in Canatuan," said Magpantay, adding, "they are just diverting the real issues."

"We respect their freedom of _expression but they violated the law when they blocked the road and caused delay of our operation, hence causing delay for us to pay (1%) royalty (to the Subanon), he said.

"I am not keeping a personal issue with the bishop but those who picketed are answerable to the law," he said, adding they could have asked the police to disperse the protesters "but we did not."

Asked why TVI only sued a few persons and excluded the prominent leaders, Magpantay replied, "dapat pa ba naming damihan? (must we sue more people?)

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