MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Mining Company tells Subanen Community to Cooperate or Face Immediate Eviction

Published by MAC on 2005-02-22


Letter to President of the Philippines on the eviction by TVI of families from Canatuan

Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
President
Republic of the Philippines
Malacanang Palace
J.P.Laurel Street
San Miguel
Metro Manila 1005
Philippines

22nd February 2005

Madame President,

We are gravely concerned by the most recent reports from Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte, regarding the activities of TVI, a Canadian mining company. These reports document in detail the threats and efforts of company personnel to evict local residents against their will, including some of the ancestral land holders of the area, to make way for mining activities. We appeal to you to intervene to prevent the perpetration of further human rights violations and injustices against the long suffering residents of Canatuan, Siocon, by ordering the withdrawal of the armed personnel of TVI and an immediate halt to their operations. We urge the need to hold a dialogue with local indigenous, civil society, church and local authority representatives in the immediate area to confirm the continued opposition of the people to TVI. There should be a credible independent inquiry into the illegality of current and past actions of TVI mining company personnel.

The substantial and long standing opposition to TVI among the Subanon of Canatuan and Siocon and of other local residents, the local municipal authorities, civil society and churches is a matter of public record. It is deeply regrettable that despite long standing protests the wishes of Indigenous Peoples and other local residents in Siocon have not been respected to date. It is even more regretful that government agencies and military units have been complicit in efforts to force local people to accept this unwelcome project against their wishes. Their rights should be protected by law, including those outlined in the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (1997) and Mining Code (1995).

The Philippine Government is bound by domestic law and international commitments to uphold human rights. This includes the rights of Indigenous Peoples to their lands and their right to their homes and subsistence base. All citizens have the right to live in peace in their homes. Over the past 10 years TVI has maintained a regime in Canatuan which has included the establishment of checkpoints, the maintenance of a large armed security force and, the imposition of harsh controls on the entry of goods and materials, and the arbitrary exclusion of some local residents. Unarmed protestors have been beaten with sticks, abused, arrested and most recently shot at. The traditional leadership of the community opposed to TVI has been ignored and abused and a bogus pro company organisation belatedly established from among company employees and migrants, who have no traditional links to the land of Canatuan, to sign a consent to mining that lacks all credibility among the Subanon. This "leadership" and some of the government officials and company employees who conspired in its establishment have been denounced and fined by traditional leaders from across the region in their Gukom hearing of the issues in February 2004. The company has worked to subjugate, suppress and depopulate Canatuan. TVI has behaved in the manner of an abusive overlord going beyond any rights accorded to it, and has committed clear human rights violations, including several incidents of shooting and wounding of unarmed local residents.

We are further concerned that these latest efforts to evict long standing residents reveal, past reporting failures of TVI and, the failure of government agencies to adequately safeguard the interests of local Indigenous Peoples and other residents. The residents now being threatened
have long established houses, including many that predate TVI on the site.

TVI has proved to be an abuser of local rights. We call upon your government to protect Philippine citizens and to order a halt to the destructive mining operations of this Canadian company.

Yours sincerely,

(in alphabetical order of forename)

Aimee Beboso, Carleton University Filipino Students' Association (CUFSA), Canada

Alberto Achito, OREWA (organización regional indigena Embera Wounaan), Colombia

Alfonso Vanzijl, Multi-Sectoral Action Group of Aurora Province, The Philippines

Armand McKenzie, Innu Council of Nitassinan, Canada

Barbara Waldern, Chair, BC Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, Canada

Catherine Coumans, Ph.D., Research Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada, Ottawa, Canada

Cecilio Solís Librado, Asamblea Nacional Indígena Plural por la Autonomía (ANIPA), México

Christopher Abbott, Oxford Research Group, UK

Doug Booker, Ontario Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, Canada

Elizabeth P. Dollaga, BC Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (Vancouver), Canada

Eduardo C. de Guzman, Mindoro Assistance for Human Advancement thru Linkages, Inc. (MAHAL), Philippines

Emelina G. Regis, Institute for Environment Conservation and Research (INECAR), Philippines

Emily Caruso, Forest Peoples Programme, UK

Fr. Archie Casey SX, JPICC Coordinator, Xaverian Missionaries, Philippines

Fr. Frank Nally, Missionary Society of St. Columban, UK

Geoff Nettleton, Philippines Indigenous Peoples Links, UK

Gerard van Dorp, Asia Dept, Netherlands Centre for Indigenous Peoples (NCIV), Netherlands

Godofredo Galos, Save Siocon Paradise Movement, Philippines

Haroldo Salazar, Presidente de AIDESEP, Peru

Helen Leake, International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forests, Thailand

Jaume Formosa i Esteva, Alternativa Solidaria - Plenty, Spain

Joan Carling, Chairperson, Cordillera Peoples Alliance, Philippines

Jocelyn M. Villanueva, LRC-KSK/Friends of the Earth-Phils., Philippines

Jorge Fedrick, Coordinador Nacional del Movimiento Indigena de Nicaragua, Nicaragua

Most Rev. Jose R. Manguiran, Bishop of Diocese of Dipolog, Philippines

Nicholas Hildyard, The Corner House, UK

Patricia Borraz, ALMACIGA, Spain

Roger Moody, Nostromo Research, UK

Siti Maemunah, JATAM, Mining Advocacy Network, Indonesia

Sylvia R. Mesina, Quezon City, Philippines

Ted & Cora Alcuitas, B.C. Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines

Timuay Noval Lambo, Gukom of the Seven Rivers, Zamboanga City, Philippines

Tito Natividad Fiel, DIOPIM Committee on Mining Issues, Philippines

Tony Clarke, Polaris Institute, Canada

Tracy Glynn, Memorial University's Society for Corporate Environmental and Social Responsibility, Canada

Washington Bolivar, Presidente del INECA, Peru


Background article

Calgary mining firm accused of defiling sacred mountain: Philippines gold mine is a model operation, company insists

Kelly Patterson, The Ottawa Citizen

Friday 18 February 2005

A Canadian gold company is caught in a highly public and nasty battle with indigenous people in the Philippines -- a case that has become a litmus test for the controversial expansion of mining across the island nation.

After 11 years of development, Calgary-based *TVI* Pacific Inc. began full-scale operations on its open-pit mine on top of Mount Canatuan in Mindanao, 800 kilometres south of Manila,last May. Spread over 500 hectares, the project is expected to yield 850 metric tons of ore a day by next year. The mountain, especially its peak, is a sacred site for some members of an indigenous tribe called the Subanen. "*TVI* has desecrated our altar, the tip of Mount Canatuan, which is our most sacred place," Jose Anoy recently told the Asia-Pacific Post. Mr. Anoy is a prominent Subanen leader.

His tribe has lived on the slopes of Mount Canatuan since the 17th century. Mr. Anoy, who says he is the timuoy, or hereditary chief, of the Subanen, says his ancestors promised their "Immortal Being" they would guard the summit from harm in return for safe passage through the jungle.

That's news to Clifford James, president of *TVI*, who says in fact that most of the Subanen welcome the open-pit operation, and says the site is not sacred.

"It was never a sacred mountain" until the mining company appeared, he says, adding that an official archeological survey of the area found no evidence of its religious significance.

The longstanding clash between *TVI* and anti-mine advocates came to a head this week after an announcement that more than 60 families on the site face eviction by the end of the month if they don't accept the company's relocation package. More than 100 families have already moved.

*TVI* is the first foreign-owned mining company to launch a new, major venture in the Philippines in recent years. The mining industry in this mineral-rich nation had ground to a halt after a court ruling against foreign-owned ventures in early 2004.

Last week, the Philippines Supreme Court definitively overturned that decision, sparking an outcry from environmental groups, church leaders and indigenous groups. Communist insurgents with a 35-year history of terrorist attacks warned they would target any foreign-owned mines "who plunder and ravage the environment."

Philippines President Gloria Arroyo recently called *TVI*'s project a model for future mining development. Canadian Ambassador Peter Sutherland called the project "the barometer for success of other mining companies."

Mr. James says the mine, which employs 250 Subanen, has the blessing of the tribe's council of elders. It has provided a medical clinic, and is collaborating with the Canadian International Development Agency on a community development project.

The stakes are high for the debt-crippled country, which is sitting on an estimated $1 trillion in untapped mineral resources, including the world's third-largest gold reserves.

"We want to help these people," says Mr. James, adding that he is also in the process of setting up an aid foundation, chipping in half of its $500,000 budget from his personal funds.

But opposition to the mine is passionate, and has spread far beyond the slopes of Mount Canatuan. Indigenous, environmental and aid groups have joined Mr. Anoy and other Subanen leaders in denouncing the mine.

*TVI* is "the worst possible advertisement for Canada and Canadian mining," says Geoff Nettleton of the Philippines Indigenous Peoples Links and co-author of a scathing 2004 review of the mine by British-based Christian Aid.

"They have been prepared to commit abuses and misrepresent local sentiments" to overcome their opposition, he adds. The municipality of Siocon, which includes the village at Canatuan, has elected an anti-mine mayor three times in a row. At a public meeting last November, 740 people signed a petition to halt the mine.

The project has a decade-long history of bitter and ugly battles between pro- and anti-mine factions.

*TVI* supporters have accused Mr. Anoy and Onsino Mato, another indigenous anti-mine leader, of a series of crimes ranging from extortion to child abuse and even murder.

For their part, anti-mine advocates accuse the company of dirty tricks, human-rights abuses and resorting to smear campaigns to discredit them.

Last February, Mr. Mato appealed to the United Nations to intervene, adding that a goon squad of *TVI* guards had tried to kill him.

A delegation also met with non-governmental organizations and politicians in Ottawa in November 2004 and in 2000. Both factions will appear before the Commons subcommittee on human rights and international development in the next few weeks.

Conflict over the mine has resulted in bloodshed: Four protesters at a roadblock last March were injured after the company's paramilitary security force fired warning shots. *TVI* says guards reacted only after a protester threw a rock through a truck window.

In 2002, a radical Islamic guerrilla group twice ambushed *TVI* vehicles, killing 13 people. Relatives of the victims accused Mr. Mato and Mr. Anoy of paying the group for the hit, but the court case was dismissed. (They are now appealing.) Mr. Anoy and Mr. Mato say the case was part of a smear campaign.

The latest eruption in this vitriolic battle has been sparked by the relocation announcement. One resident, Josie Gonzaga, claims the Canadian company's paramilitary force told her " 'something' would happen to me" if she didn't agree to move.

*TVI* vehemently denies strong-arming the families. A news release by the company acknowledges that 69 families must be relocated by March 1, but insists the majority are non-indigenous squatters who have no right to be there in the first place.

These families, along with the 18 indigenous households still on the site, have been offered financial compensation and relocation to a new village being built by the company, according to the statement.

Juanito Tumangkis, chairman of the Subanen Council of Elders, says in a separate statement that the vast majority of Subanen support the relocation effort, and that the tribal council, not the mine, has issued the eviction notice.

"Jose 'Boy' Anoy does not speak for the Subanon community," Mr. Tumangkis insists, arguing that Mr. Anoy is not, as he claims, the hereditary chief of the Subanon, but an embittered, corrupt ally of the non-indigenous squatters, whose small-scale mining operations were shut down after *TVI* arrived.

Mr. Anoy and his followers hotly deny those allegations. They have been boycotting the council of elders and the Siocon Subano Association Inc., saying that both had been hijacked by *TVI* through a series of dirty tricks.


Mining Company tells Subanen Community to Cooperate or Face Immediate Eviction

February 14, 2005

DCMI Press statement

Sitio Canatuan, Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte - Eighty-six families face immediate eviction from their Ancestral Domain at the hands of the Canadian Mining company TVI Pacific Inc. (TVI). The community members have until the last day of February to accept a relocation fee and get ready to move. If they do not comply then TVI will file an eviction notice against them. The company is offering each family 250,000 pesos ($4,600 US).

Three of families have already received formal notices from the company. Emmanuel and Gaga Gonzaga, Ireneo and Luciana Calibo, and Joey and Josie Gonzaga have been ordered sign or get out. These families are among the many farmers who have been actively opposing the operations of the mining firm.

Timuay Boy Anoy, a Subanen leader, has responded to the recent pressure by saying that TVI will only have its wishes "over our slain bodies". He has started further that "Even if it means death, we will continue fighting TVI because our land is our life and it has already been taken from us by TVI which does not have the slightest respect for our indigenous rights and sacred practices."

TVI started open pit gold mining in Sitio Canatuan last year under a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement that they gained in 1998. Starting at the top of Mt. Canatuan, the Company has steadily worked its way down the mountain with earth scraping bulldozers. TVI operations are now just 15 meters from the houses of some members of the Canatuan community.

The Subanen community refuses to relocate since they believe it is their ancestral right to live on the land. Mt. Canatuan is sacred for the tribe and they consider it their most holy place. In 2003, the families obtained a Certificate of Ancestral Domain (CADT) to the area through the Indigenous People's Rights Act. This certificate makes it illegal for anyone to enter their land without their approval.


The following is an interview with Joy Gonzaga of Sitio Canatuan January 27, 2005

Photgraph of Joy GonzagaJosie Zamora Gonzaga has been a resident of Sito Canatuan for 15 years with her husband Lesjolando Gonzaga Sr. She has one son and two daughters aged eight, six and one. (The text has been translated and edited from the original Visayan)

DCMI: Where you live?

JG: I live in Sitio Canatuan. Right at the mining site. We are currently in a difficult situation because the mining area is just 15 meters away from my house.

DCMI: How do you support yourself and your family?

JG: Our means of livelihood is mainly farming. We planted fruit trees and we sell the products to the market and the local community for 100 pesos ($1.85 US) a day. It is not enough for the family since we need to buy milk for the children. The neighbours are hard up and selling their goods for debt. That is one thing that would like support agencies to help us out with. Our meagre income is not enough – especially before the harvest comes.

DCMI: What can you tell me about what your life during the last year and your experiences with TVI?

J.G: Last year I joined a picket in Pisawak to express my opposition to mining operations in Canatuan.

My experience with TVI has been really disgusting. Since they have started operating we can hardly live or enjoy drinking fresh and clean water. Our water sources are now unclean since the mines operate day and night. Everywhere the water is polluted – the farmlands etc. Half of Luciana's (another Canatuan resident) plants are covered with waste.

I would like to appeal to the President Macapagal Arroyo who gave them permission to operate. She should be the one to get them to stop. We are just poor but they will trample our rights. We are forced to fight for our rights. I do not know what we will do.

Our right to our land is also being violated because they established checkpoints in certain areas where we used to pass. They have placed barbwire across our path. We are not allowed to enter the check points when we go home after 6 pm.

On December 9, 2004, I was approached by 8 of TVI's Special Civilian Armed Auxiliary (SCAA) members. I recognized three of these men as Mr. Kanadawan, Mr. Tumimrang and Mr. Baes. They tried very hard to convince me to sign a three page document agreeing to a settlement of 170,000 pesos ($3,150). They told me that being stubborn would accomplish nothing – I would have to vacate anyways because it was inside of TVI's MPSA area. I simply answered that, "I will not vacate because I lived here before the MPSA and the CADT".

On December 10, 2004 I was offered 250,000 pesos ($4,600). Adolfo Dalman tried to tempt me with the amount (although I did not see cash in hand) at the house of Mr. Edang. I said "no" and they told me that if I keep on refusing they would be forced to file a case against me. They also told me that 'something' would probably happen to me. I replied that "I will take note of that statement from you. If something happens to me then you will be the first one to be questioned."

We all received an invitation from TVI a week after that. The people of Canatuan were asked to come for a meeting to discuss the problems. We were all asked to become members of SSAI II (a pro-mining Subanen Association organized by TVI) and accept a settlement of 250,000 pesos. A waiver was attached for us to sign. If we did not agree to sign than we would not be granted a green card which entitles us to pass TVI's checkpoints. They said deadline for the decision is February 28, 2005. If we keep on refusing we are going to be evicted from the area.

When I think about how much money I was offered – I try not to remember that I was offered that much. I am more happy to see my children still living here and going to school. I am happy to live simply with the fruit trees and just dream that we have the money.

DCMI: What is your biggest concern for the future?

J.G: My biggest concern for the future is security for my family. I am concerned about my livelihood and way of life. I urgently ask the Government to act on it.

DCMI: What will happen to you if you are forced to relocate?

J.G: Time will only tell. I am determined to live here forever. If I will be forced to relocate I do not know what I will do. As of now I will not move from the place where I have stayed for so long.

DCMI: When you think about the future, what do you wish for?

J.G.: I dream of having TVI gone. What I really wish for the future is to see my children grow and live simply. I wish that TVI would leave soon.

DCMI: Do you have anything that you would like to say to the people who are supporting you both locally and internationally?

J.G: I would ask those who support us in our struggle to help us drive TVI out from Canatuan.

- Maryanne Mutch of DCMI

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