MAC: Mines and Communities

Legitimacy of TVI Pacific’s right to mine questioned at Philippine Congressional Hearing

Published by MAC on 2005-09-29

Legitimacy of TVI Pacific’s right to mine questioned at Philippine Congressional Hearing

September 29, 2005

DCMI Press Release

Dipolog City, Philippines - Three national legislators heard evidence at a hearing in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte of abuses by the Canadian mining company TVI Pacific . This evidence raised questions about the legitimacy of the agreements that the company's mining license was based on.

A subsequent press conference was hosted by the Bayan Muna Party List in which Joel Virador, Bayan's congressional representative, stressed that TVI and Juanito Tumangkis - the indigenous leader with whom they have a Memorandum of Agreement - had given dishonest answers during the hearing with the national legislators.

The three congressmen, Rep. Joel G. Virador and his colleagues Rep. Mujiv S. Hataman, and Rep. Husien Amin, travelled to Siocon on September 23 2005 for a public hearing over allegations of TVI's human rights and environmental abuses, conducted under the auspices of the House Committee on National Cultural Communities.

TVI officers turned up for the hearing in full force. Those present included Clifford James, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the TVI Pacific Group of Companies, Eugene Mateo, the President of TVI Resource Development Philippines, John Ridsdel, a company consultant, and Yulo Perez, the TVI project Manager in Siocon.

Eugene Mateo of TVI stressed that their operation is legal because they had secured all the necessary legal requirements for their mining operation. When asked by the congressmen for proof, he pointed to the Memorandum of Agreement between Juanito Tumangkis, the president of the Siocon Subanon Association (SSAI), and the company, as well as a resolution from the Barangay [village] Council of Tabayo

Heromino Dolino, the current director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) national office, explained to the congressmen about the procedures for mining permit applications. He defended the legality of TVI's operation. He noted that one of the requirements in applying for a mining license is to secure the free prior and informed consent from the affected Indigenous Peoples.

When asked by the congressmen why the MGB had approved TVI's operations when in fact it had failed to secure the genuine consent from the legitimate Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) holder, Dolino claimed this was not a decision for the MGB, but for the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP).

Yet when the NCIP Provincial Director of Zamboanga del Norte, Lista "Jun" Cawanan, was cross-examined by the congressmen he had to admit that NCIP was doing nothing to protect the rights of those Subanon who were affected by the mining operation. He was also castigated for not properly understanding the rights of Indigenous Peoples under the relevant legislation outlining free prior and informed consent, the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA). The three congressmen obtained the commitment from the legal officer of NCIP central office lawyer, Obil Dajap, that the agency should send Mr. Cawanan for further study of IPRA. The congressmen also warned that it could cut the budget of NCIP for doing nothing to protect the rights of those Subanon affected by the mining operation.

Crucially, Timuay Jose "Boy" Anoy asserted he was the CADT holder. "The Certificate of Ancestral Domain Claim (CADC) was issued to me in the name of the Subanon People in our domain in 1997. In the year 2002, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo visited our place and recognised our place as ancestral domain", Anoy said. On June 12, 2003, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo personally handed the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) to Timuay Anoy in Southern Command Headquarters in Zamboanga City. He has not given any consent to the mining company to operate.

Timuay Anoy stressed how hard it was for him to enter his own CADT, because he is banned and harassed by TVI's SCAA [paramilitary units] every time he passes the TVI checkpoints. "Even my wife could not enter the area, that's why I have settled in Siocon because when my wife left Canatuan, she was not allowed to re-enter to get back home", he said.

He lamented that the sacred ground of his ancestral domain has been bulldozed and destroyed by TVI in conducting its open cut mining. When asked by the congressmen when he started living in Mt. Canatuan, he replied that he could not remember because from childhood he had lived within the ancestral domain.

But TVI denied banning and harassing Timuay Anoy and his associates. They stated they allowed anybody into and out of their area. When Anoy was asked to identify who was telling him that he is being banned at the TVI checkpoints, he named Danilo Bason and a certain Taconing, both TVI SCAA, and others that were harder for him to identify.

The three congressmen then cross-examined Juanito Tumangkis. In doing so they questioned the legality of his entering into an agreement with the company since he is not the legitimate holder of CADT. Tumangkis admitted he was a beneficiary of the CADT, and not a CADT holder, but he failed to answer the question of why his name was not in the list during the application, even as a beneficiary, of the CADT. Tumangkis also admitted that his organization SSAI is not a CADT holder and only few of those involved are beneficiaries of CADT. When asked how many years he had lived in Canatuan, he replied that he had lived there for only ten years.

The congressmen warned him that he could not enter into a memorandum of agreement with any company like TVI as a CADT holder, because he is not even listed as a beneficiary on the CADT. The congressmen said, under the law, the CADT holder is not an association but the traditional structure of governance. The association could start the process of application but the holder should be defined by traditional governance, and Tumangkis is not part of the traditional legitimate governance.

Also Mayor Ceasar Soriano of Siocon warned that the aforementioned resolution of Barangay Tabayo is under investigation, and ruled it as invalid because it has not been submitted to the Municipal Council of Siocon for review. He also noted that the Provincial Board of Zamboanga del Norte had only certified that TVI has applied for mining operation but has not yet given any endorsement.

Others who testified before the hearing included Onsino Mato who reiterated the human rights violations employed by the company against the legal and legitimate holders of the CADT. Haja Sharifa Mujala of the Save Siocon Paradise Movement (SSPM) who stressed that the coastal residents have suffered several skin diseases and felt the reduction of fish catches. She also complained of siltation of rivers, which she attributed to TVI's open cut mining operation.

Earlier Rep. Hataman met Bishop José Manguiran at his house in Dipolog on his way to the hearing. The Catholic Church's representative, and well-known environmentalist, presented congressman Hataman with a bulk of documents, produced by DIOPIM Committee on Mining Issues (DCMI), to substantiate the allegations of human rights violations committed by the company.

During the half hour meeting Bishop Manguiran lamented to Rep. Hataman that "the Human Rights abuses of TVI have been raised by Onsino Mato to the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Population (UNWGIP) several times, but the Arroyo administration has done nothing, choosing instead to facilitate the full-scale operation of TVI over the area of Subanon Ancestral Domain".

The Committee had asked Bishop Manguiran to testify before them during the public hearing. However, the Bishop was unable to attend owing to his hectic schedule, and instead delegated Inday Davi, a DCMI Subanon Community Organiser.

By Tito Natividad Fiel

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