MAC: Mines and Communities

Urgent Action - TVI press ahead with their Philippine plans by force

Published by MAC on 2004-03-23
Urgent Action - TVI press ahead with their Philippine plans by force

Philippine Indigenous Peoples Links

23 March 2004

Four picketers were shot and wounded by company security forces during a protest to stop equipment of a Canadian mining company, TVI Pacific Inc. being moved on to a proposed open pit gold mining site - at Canatuan, Siocon Zamboanga del Norte on the Philippines island of Mindanao. The incident took place at approximately 5.00pm on 17 March 2004. The incident reveals the remaining high state of tension surrounding this project. The company is currently trying to rush ahead with its plans to mine despite sustained and determined opposition and its failure to gain the necessary social acceptance. Local people believe that despite the shooting the company will press ahead in the next few days unless stopped by protest.

This is a dangerous situation requiring urgent action. You can help. Please write and persuade others to do the same.

Take time to write to:-

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of the Philippines

Prime Minister Paul Martin of Canada

And

Clifford James CEO of TVI Pacific in Calgary Alberta

Letters of support or copies of your protests to inform the protestors can be sent to Timuay Jose Anoy Chairman Siocon Subanon Association c/o Mayor Cesar Soriano, Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte, Philippines, and via email to dcmi@qmile.com.ph and comms@piplinks.org. (See below for further details)


According to initial reports the four were shot when heavily armed members of a company financed paramilitary force known as the SCAA (Special Civilian Armed Auxiliary), led by TVI Security Consultant Retired Col Edang fired their automatic weapons. The company at first denied the incident. Later they acknowledged the shooting but denied their security fired into the crowd. However, four protesters were wounded and taken to hospital and one was left with a bullet lodged in his knee. The SCAA are a force given a brief basic training by the Philippine military, armed by the military but paid for by the company and assigned exclusively to company security.

The four who were taken to hospital were identified as Subanon Chieftain (Timuay) Macario Salacao, who is also the President of the Siocon Federation of Subanon Tribal Council (SFSTC), Edie Cayabyab, Juan Veloria and Dakbot Lorete. All four belonged to the local “Save the Paradise and watershed movement”.

Background

This is the latest incident in a ten year struggle between the company and the local community. Opposition to the proposed mine comes from many groups. The Subanon Indigenous People and other residents at the proposed mine site in Canatuan have been consistently and overwhelmingly opposed to the company’s plans. Recently the company has claimed it has the support of some local people but these claims are rejected by Subanon leaders inside and outside the community who point out that TVI’s support comes mainly from its own mining and security employees many of whom only migrated to the area for the work and have no legitimate claim to speak for the local community. The so-called leaders backed by TVI are not recognised as such by other Subanon.

The planned mine is strongly opposed by the local mayor, municipal council and most village councillors in Siocon. Farmers’ organisations and coastal fishing communities and the indigenous and settler communities along the riverside that flows out of the mine area also fear and oppose the mine. Timuay Salacao (one of the wounded) is one of their leaders. The project is rejected by indigenous Subanon organisations across the whole Zamboanga peninsular. The Catholic Bishop of Dipolog Monsignor Jose Manguiran and the respected Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines have also called specifically for a halt to the proposed Canatuan mine.

TVI arrived in the area in 1994. They did not receive the necessary permission of the Subanon people of Canatuan at that time or later. The company established and maintains armed checkpoints controlling access to the area. There have been previous violent incidents including others where local residents have been shot and wounded. The company guards are also accused of using the checkpoints to bar access to essential goods, and bar entry to some individuals. Timuay Jose Anoy, who is the Government-recognised leader of the Canatuan Subanon community and a strong opponent of the mine, has filed a court case against the company’s security force for denying him passage through his own ancestral lands. In 1999 the Subanon and other local residents mounted a picket to prevent the entry of drilling equipment. Picketers were tied up, beaten with sticks and two were arrested. A report by the Philippine Human Rights Commission acknowledged the high level of opposition to the mine and identified the presence of the company as the main cause of the conflict and violence.

Siocon contains remaining densely forested areas. The government defines it as a critical environmental zone. The mine site is in a vital watershed. Among local people there is the expectation that here, as elsewhere, mining will pollute the river and lead to further deforestation. Along the river they have already noted negative effects from the operation of the company’s cyanide plant. The proposed site of the mine includes an area the Subanon protect as sacred. The excavation of the mine will also require the forced relocation and dismantling of the houses of many Subanon and settler families who have lived on the site since before the entry of the company. Many refuse to move. The majority of local Subanon have made clear they absolutely reject TVI both because they oppose large-scale mining and because of the abuse and disrespect they feel they have experienced at the hands of this company.

The Subanon have even voiced their opposition at meetings of the United Nations in Geneva and in Canada where they held meetings with the Canadian Government. Within the Philippines their resistance is well known. In the Philippines it is a legal requirement to secure local acceptance prior to the development of a mine. Within ancestral lands there is normally a strong legal obligation to secure the free prior informed consent of the indigenous community. TVI however say they are not required to secure this consent. According to the Philippine Mining Code of 1995 and other legislation the Government has the power to revoke mining licenses. The Canatuan Subanon have filed a case to have the TVI licence revoked. The Mayor of Siocon, Cesar Soriano, has also challenged the legality of the TVI operations. Yet the company are allowed to proceed.

Despite the strong and sustained opposition, the clear record of abuses and many unresolved accusations against TVI and its security force this project has inexplicably continued to receive strong backing from both the Philippine and Canadian governments. The company claims that it is bringing development and benefit to the area. They further claim to have secured all the necessary local consent. Many people in the area insist with ever-increasing desperation that this is untrue. The Subanon specifically reject large-scale mining as a route to sustainable development. The desperation is fuelled by the refusal of the central government authorities to recognise the many clear and strong expressions of opposition.

The mine itself has become a major source of conflict in an already conflict affected region. The victims are virtually always the local people. In 2002 a company truck was ambushed by persons unknown and local Subanon including some company employees and their relatives were killed. The situation is made worse by the militarization associated with the project.

Urgent action is needed to calm the situation, avoid further bloodshed, investigate the latest incident and bring to justice the perpetrator(s). We are fearful of continuing conflict and permanent damage to the land of the Subanon. There is urgent need for a strong call for a halt to the current efforts of the company to press on despite opposition. It is vital that local views and those of the Indigenous people whose lands are to be exploited are fully respected. At present they feel abused isolated and ignored.


Act now

Please write to:-

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
Malacanang Palace,
JP Laurel Street,
Metro Manila,
1005
Philippines
Fax:+63 (2) 736 1010
Email: corres@op.gov.ph

Prime Minister Paul Martin
80 Wellington Street,
Ottawa,
Canada K1A 0A2

Clifford James, Managing Director and CEO
TVI Pacific Inc,
Suite 2000, 736-6th Avenue SW,
Calgary,
Alberta, T2P 3T7,
Canada

And call for:-

- An immediate halt to all attempts to move equipment or advance the project
- A full and independent investigation of the latest shooting incident leading to criminal charges
- The withdrawal, disarming and investigation of the SCAA armed paramilitary
- Respect for the wishes of the local people who have made clear their opposition to this project
- A credible independent effort to determined through public consultations the true sentiments of all in the local community.

Letters of support can also be sent to Timuay Jose Anoy, Chairman Siocon Subanon Association, c/o Mayor Cesar Soriano, Siocon Zamboanga del Norte, Philippines, and via email to dcmi@qmile.com.ph and comms@piplinks.org.

Sample letter follows....


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

Your Excellency,

I am writing to express my dismay at recent events in Canatuan, Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte.

I am gravely concerned by reports that TVI Pacific's security forces have fired their weapons and wounded four local residents, who were protesting at the company's presence, resulting in their hospitalisation. Those injured include Timuay Macario Salacao, chairman of the Siocon Federation of Subanon Tribal Councils, Edie Cayabyab, Juan Veloria and Dakbot Lorete. Timuay Salacao is a respected elder of the Subanon people living downstream from the mine. Mr. Cayabyab is reported to have had a bullet lodged in his knee. According to previous reports by the Philippine Human Rights Commission, local NGOs and church groups, as well as local residents, this is only the latest in a number of shooting and other violent incidents that have occurred involving TVI guards on different occasions over the last nine years.

We write to urge you to act with speed to suspend until further notice all activities by the Canadian mining company and so prevent further heightening of tension and possible further violent incidents.

Madame President the root of the continuing problem surrounding the presence of TVI in Siocon is that many local people who oppose the development of the a mine, and specifically the presence of TVI, feel that their rights and wishes are not being respected. They feel their voice is ignored in decision making that will seriously affect their future.

TVI claims that they have secured widespread local support. There is, however, much evidence to the contrary. The Mayor and municipal council of Siocon are on record as opposing the plans of TVI, as are the vast majority of Barangay officials within the municipality. The Siocon Subanon Association has maintained its opposition consistently for ten years. Recent divisions in the community nearest the proposed mine caused by the presence of the mining company have not altered the overwhelming opposition among Subanon people.

Opposition to TVI’s plans have, in fact, been expressed by Subanon organisations across the whole Zamboanga peninsula. These include the Piksolobukan nog Bansa Subanen (PBS). Bishop Jose Manguiran of Dipolog and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines have specifically called for the withdrawal of TVI. Local farmers report that over the last 15 months, in which the TVI cyanide gold separation plant has been allowed to operate, they have experienced a marked deterioration in the quality of the water in the river and reaching their fields. Their local Irrigators Association is also on record as opposing TVI.

Madame President, as you know, Philippine law rightly requires that any and all new mining ventures secure local acceptance and, in cases where Indigenous Populations are affected, the Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) of the affected ancestral landholders is required. This FPIC is, according to the law to be determined through indigenous decision making processes. These latest incidents appear to show that local people will continue to insist on their right to a say in the future of their community, especially one that could have such adverse effects on so many of their livelihoods.

In the name of peace, justice and long-term sustainable development we therefore appeal to you to act with speed to protect the community:-

Yours respectfully

[insert your name here]

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