MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Urgent Appeal to Save Mount Canatuan and the Subanon People

Published by MAC on 2004-10-26

The following are a number of statements and press releases or articles that resulted from a press conference on the issue of TVI Resources in Metro Manila on 23rd October. They include a statement from the Bishop of Dipolog (the diocese that covers the proposed project) and the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, as well as an update on meeting.

An Urgent Appeal to Save Mount Canatuan and the Subanon People

October 26, 2004

DIOPIM Committee on Mining Issues (DCMI) statement

Tabayo, Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte, Mindanao, Philippines – Yesterday Timuay (Chieftain) Jose "Boy" Anoy released an appeal to the international community on behalf of the Subanon people. As one of the leaders of the Subanons, Timuay Anoy urgently asks for support to save Mt. Canatuan from destruction by TVI Resource Development Philippines Inc., a Canadian Mining Company.

Mount Canatuan is part of the ancestral domain of the Subanon people. This peak has great spiritual and cultural significance for them as they consider it their most holy place. However, Mount Canatuan is also of great interest to TVI because it has rich deposits of gold and other metals. For the last 10 years TVI has been setting up its operations in the area and mor erecently reprocessing mine tailings that were obtained from small scale miners. This year the company started to open cut mine the mountain. If these operations continue it will only be one or two months until the bulldozers reach Timuay Anoy's doorstep and the community will have no choice but to relocate.

However, the community is absolutely opposed to vacating their land. For 15 years the Canatuan Subanon have been trying to protect their claim to their ancestral land. In 2003, the group was finally successful at being the second indigenous group in the Philippines to gain rights to their land through the Indigenous People's Rights Act. These rights make it illegal for anyone to occupy their land without the approval of the landholders. Thus, TVI is an illegal presence in the area since they do not have the approval of the Canatuan Subanon. However the Government has been slow to recognize the Canatuan Subanons rights in this area. As Anoy states in the appeal:

"We cannot understand why the Government has given the green light for TVI to operate. The Government has stated that TVI's operation is one of answers to stave off the fiscal crisis, but the Mining Act and Mineral Action Plan gives TVI a tax holiday and they can legally repatriate 100% of their profits. Their operation is nothing but a bane to the majority of the people."

TVI is quick to defend its actions by claiming that it has the approval of the majority of the local people. The company declares that it secured the support of the Subanons through a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signed on December 19, 2003 by the leader of the Subanon 'Council of Elders'. However, the Canatuan People believe that this agreement is illegitimate because they do not recognize the Council as a legitimate governing body. In response to this agreement, the local Subanon revived the practice of the Gokum (a traditional court of the Subanon) in February 2004. At this meeting the elders and leaders from the local communities debated the legitimacy of TVI's claims. The verdict of the Gokum was that "many of those included in the so-called Council of Elders are not of the clan and blood of our ancestor Manglang, and not even originating from the Canatuan area. And therefore had no claim to be representatives of the Canatuan people".

TVI has continued its support and recognition of the "Council of Elders" and the pro-company group within the community. This group is made up largely TVI employees and others who come from outside the area. TVI has enlisted the help of CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) in providing privileges and programs to those who cooperate with them. TVI has gone so far as to recruit people in the community to spy on their neighbours. All of these actions have sown distrust and division within the community. By using the traditional colonial strategy of 'divide and conquer', TVI has solidified its power within the community.

The Canatuan Subanons remain opposed to the mining project because they firmly believe that their land is their future. It is not only vital to culture and their traditional way of life, but it is also their key to community development and building sustainable livelihoods. Anoy asserts that, "without our land, our people will suffer the same fate of some of our indigenous brothers and sisters who have been driven out of their land to satisfy the greed for the profit of big business." The group recognizes a temporary influx of money into their community will in no way compensate them for what they will lose if their land is destroyed.

The communities around and downstream of Canatuan also support the Subanons stance. The mayor of Siocon – a downstream community – has 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".

Tensions have run high between the Subanons and TVI, especially since TVI enlisted the help of a Special Civilian Armed Auxiliary (SCAA) to protect the interests of the company. This paramilitary group has been trying to quell local opposition through intimidation, the establishment of blockades, and violence. In response to these actions, Anoy states that 'Even with TVI's propensity for violence, we will not waver in our struggle." However, Anoy and his people believe that they cannot do it alone. Thus, he appeals to all concerned organizations and individuals to support their struggle. He asks the international community to "Help us stop human rights abuses against our people. Let us join together to stop the plunder of our national patrimony, the destruction of our environment."

Tribe seeks end to mining on holy mount

October 24, 2004

By Norman Bordadora, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Members of the Subanon tribe on Saturday called on President Macapagal-Arroyo to order a Canadian firm to stop its mining operations on a Zamboanga del Norte mountain that they hold sacred.

Timuay Jose Anoy, leader of the Subanon tribe, said the group was a signatory to the Indigenous People's Rights Act (Ipra) and had been awarded a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title covering their settlement on Mt. Canatuan in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte.

The Subanons have been living on Mt. Canatuan since the 17th century.

"We entered into the IPRA [Indigenous Peoples Rights Act 1997] and were awarded a certificate of ancestral domain title. Thus, we cannot understand why the government is allowing Toronto Ventures Inc. to operate [there]," Anoy said at a news conference in Quezon City yesterday.

Anoy said the mining firm had desecrated the Subanon's "altar" and its most sacred spot, the peak of Mt. Canatuan.

"(Toronto Ventures)... has no respect for our people and our way of life. They bulldozed the tip of the mountain, destroyed our most holy place, and in a matter of weeks, our community will be wiped out due to their mad drive for gold," Anoy said.

The tribal leader said they had met with officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, and the Commission on Human Rights to demand a stop to the mining operations.

"But our appeals have been ignored by these agencies that are supposed to protect our community and environment," he said.

A Call for the Cancellation of TVI's MPSA

DIOCESE OF DIPOLOG Bishop's Residence Sicayab, Dipolog City 7100 Tel. No. 212-2879 Philippines

23rd October 2004

I have known the Subanons as a peace-loving and hospitable people. Settled in the wide expanse of Zamboanga peninsula, in Western Mindanao, since time immemorial, these people nurtured the land, took care of it, as they equitably worked and shared its bounties. They are real stewards of this beautiful and prosperous land ­ a land which is truly God' gift to man.

One day in 1994, Canadian mining prospectors arrived in Canatuan like an army of occupying forces. These foreigners staked claims over the sacred Mount Canatuan, the altar of Subanons. Eventually upon securing a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) with the government, they established a mine called TVI Resource Development Philippines, and started undoing God's gift and creation, using guns, gold, goons and employing lies and deception.

Suddenly, the life of the peace-loving and hospitable Subanons of Canatuan was never the same again. They now live in pain, in fear, in misery. The Subanon traditional leaders like Timuay Boy Anoy and Onsino Mato cannot even move freely in their ancestral land ­ a land which even the government of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had recognized when it issued a certificate of ancestral domain title (CADT) on June 12, 2003.

Canatuan is such a volatile issue, where the Subanons and TVI are the contending forces. On one side, the Subanons assert their right of ownership of ancestral domain, invoking the government-issued CADT. On the other hand, TVI invokes its right to operate by MPSA permit on the same CADT domain.

Since the government issued both right (i.e. CADT and the MPSA) over the same domain, it is logical to conclude that the government is a casual party to the contention which breeds an unpeace situation in that area.

Today, there is only un-peace, exacerbated by hundreds of armed paramilitaries strutting here and there to guard and serve the mining company. Why, even the government is a party to the absence of peace in this part.

Canatuan is also a contention of values. TVI focuses on the monetary values of gold, counting the stakes in profits. The Subanons regard the land and its resources as the source of life. Losing their land, they lose life.

With mining, the land is permanently damaged. Next come our rivers, and then our seas. Mining is such a short-term engagement while its adverse effects are long-term. There is no such thing as sustainable development with mining, more so with open pit mining.

I join our Subanon brothers and sisters and the people of Siocon, who are equally badly effected, in calling for the cancellation of TVI's MPSA. I add my voice in condemning human rights abuses on defenseless people, acts of deception and blatant lies. I urge you, my brothers and sisters to join us.

(Sgd) Most Rev. Jose R. Manguiran, D.D. Bishop, Diocese of Dipolog and DCMI Bishop in Charge

"Declare them guilty, O God. Let them fall, because of their schemes"- Psalm 5:11

Statement of the NCCP in Solidarity with the People of Sicocon Against Toronto Ventures Incorporated

23rd October 2004

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) applauds the people of Siocon, for being united against the mining activities of Toronto Ventures Incorporated (TVI) in Mt. Canatuan, Siocon. We congratulate the municipal officials for standing alongside the people in opposing TVI. We are inspired by the unity forged by all sectors in the community, both Muslim and Christian in that far away coastal town of Zamboanga del Norte.

The NCCP denounces in strongest terms the indifference of the government agencies to and their buck-passing of the plea of the people of Siocon for the preservation of Mt. Canatuan. Along with the Clergy of the Diocese of Dipolog, we condemn the lies, arrogance and misrepresentations of the TVI. We hold the government of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo responsible for this blatant ecological-disaster-in-the-making and the violation of the right of the Subanen tribe to ancestral domain.

In joining the call for an end to the mining operations of TVI, the NCCP affirms its opposition to and call for the repeal of the Mining Act of 1995. This affirmation is made more so that the Supreme Court has ruled that certain provisions of the Act are illegal. We are aware that TVI has been granted a tax holiday and a hundred percent repatriation of its profits. This is neither an answer to the fiscal crisis nor is it a long-term solution to plug a cash-strapped government riddled by corruption. It is an indication of the government's irresponsible governance and of its subservience to foreign dictates. It is a failure to put the interests of the majority of the citizens of this land as its priority.

The Subanen and the population of Siocon have shown us the way. We cannot be as the people of old: "like a half-baked loaf of bread, relying on the nations around them and do not realize that this reliance on foreigners has robbed them of their strength. . . Because their leaders talk arrogantly, they will die a violent death, and the Egyptians will laugh". (Hos 7:8- 9,16). Such will be the end of irresponsible leaders.


Resist GMA'S Policy of Plunder in Favor of Mining TNCs!

Kalikasan-PNE Press Statement

October 23, 2004

Toronto Ventures Incorporated (TVI) Resource Development - a paragon of everything that is wrong with the government's mining revitalization program - is not the only one that is now commencing a massive and mad campaign to disembowel the earth and drive our people to the fringes. Upon the government's signal, the people in Siocon, especially the indigenous Subanons, led by Timuay (elder) Jose Anoy, are now being driven away from their land and ancestral domain.

After inauspiciously signing the government's Mineral Action Plan (MAP) last September, President Arroyo signaled what is now becoming a frenzied rush to mine all of Philippine mineral resources. Government justifies this as a means to resuscitate a moribund industry, but MAP is clearly not about lifting this industry or what is left of it.

All MAP projects, attuned with the Mining Act of 1995, are solely and exclusively for the profits of transnational mining corporations or mining TNCs. It is PLUNDER by no other name that the Supreme Court earlier rightly sought to curtail, but which President Arroyo and House Speaker Jose de Venecia are now treasonously praying the high court will reconsider.

The plunder, however, has not just continued, but by the government's designs, is intensifying.

Barely has newly appointed Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) secretary Michael Defensor warmed his seat, and already, the latter has approved two new large-scale mining projects. The DENR's one-stop-shops for mineral applications processing are now busy churning out mining permits for mining TNCs. Even the Supreme Court ruling on the unconstitutionality of Financial or Technical Assistance Agreements (FTAA) does not stand in the way of the Mines and GeoSciences Bureau's goal to increase from 2 to 39 FTAAs on or before 2010. The government has earlier given the thumbs up signal to the full blast operation of the Australian Lafayette Mining Corporation in the fragile small island ecosystem of Rapu-Rapu in the Bicol region and the Rio Tuba nickel mining expansion in Palawan island. Meanwhile, President Arroyo reversed the cancellation of the permit of Crew Minerals, a Canadian company, in the watershed island region of Mindoro Oriental. The long-awaited rehabilitation of the massively destroyed island of Marinduque because of the excesses and abuses of Marcopper-Placer Dome, also a Canadian owned mining TNC, may even be overtaken by government plans to reopen large-scale mining in that blighted province, Marinduque's sick and dying people amidst a poisoned and still unrehabilitated environment notwithstanding.

Many more large-to-medium-scale mining projects are in the government's drawing board, not the least are the Mt. Diwalwal and Mt. de Oro gold finds, where the government itself decided to dirty its hands by parrying small-scale miners in an obvious gesture to prepare such finds for large-scale TNC profit-making.

On the other hand, even as the government parrots about a new era of responsible mining dedicated to sustainable development and environmental protection, a number of existing TNC projects, like those in Palawan and Samar, are by themselves intrinsically unsustainable and environmentally unsound by reason of their location and ecological makeup as protected high-biodiversity areas. Yet that is not within the purview of the MAP which even expresses concern for "rapidly expanding" protected areas, allegedly restricting opportunities for minerals development.

TVI, according to the government, is now being followed with keen interest by foreign investors. Developments on this front will allegedly determine future mining investments. But this is one investment that the Philippines can very well do without. We can mention three reasons:

1. TVI is an exemplar as an abusive capitalist free-rider. It does not bring in new and substantial investment, but is using borrowed resources from even local sources which it will use to exploit and gain profits from local natural resources. This is plunder, plain and simple.

2. It is not true that TVI is bringing about order in the host community, sustainability and protection to the environment that has been slowly degrading because of their mining operation. The community, indigenous people and local government units oppose their mining operation. On the contrary, TVI has brought all the displacements, human rights violations and ecological destruction that threaten to rip apart what remains of an environment previously ruined by foreign logging concessions, even as TVI likewise forcefully operates in the area.

3. TVI does not and will not engage in downstream industry development. All its operations will be hinged on extracting full profits from all the minerals it will extract from Mt. Canatuan and directly shipped to Canada, as is the practice of all mining TNCs in the Philippines.

The Kalikasan-People's Network Environment (K-PNE) supports the call of the Subanon people and the various sectors in Siocon for the withdrawal of TVI's permit and the immediate cessation of its activities in Zamboanga del Norte.

But even as we do, we are well aware that such a call can only prosper under a dispensation that will do away with the anti-people MAP and the anti-sovereign Mining Act. That clearly will not be under the anti-people and pro-mining TNC Arroyo regime.

Scrap the MAP and the Philippine Mining Act! TVI, Out of Siocon! Respect Indigenous People's Rights to Their Ancestral Domain!

Local People Present a United Stand at Environmental Forum in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte

Written by Maryanne Mutch based on the reports of Tito Fiel at DIOPIM Committee on Mining Issues (DCMI) and Violeta Gloria at MindaNews

17 November 2004

Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte – On November 12, 2004 the people in Siocon were given a rare opportunity to speak their mind to the Presidential Assistant to Mindanao and other levels of government at an Environmental Forum in Jose Rizal Memorial School. Given the chance to make their voice heard, the people effectively lobbied against the presence of TVI Pacific, a Canadian mining company. At the end of the forum, 740 observers expressed their opposition to TVI by signing statements addressed to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) that demanded the cessation of mining operations on Mt. Canatuan and the cancellation of TVI's Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA). These actions brought TVI's credibility into question, since the company has long claimed to both the Philippine and Canadian Governments that it has overwhelming support from both the local and adjacent communities.

Observers were heartened by the apparent success of the forum. They are still waiting, however, for the Government to take a firm stand on this issue and support the local people. There were fears beforehand that the forum could easily become a platform for TVI to present its views and pressure the local people into a settlement. The schedule did not seem conducive to constructive dialogue and the forum been previously postponed for unclear reasons. Bishop Jose Manguiran of Dipolog had publicly boycotted the forum because he was suspicious of the planning. All of these concerns led DCMI and the Save Siocon Paradise Movement (SSPM) to be especially watchful in the days leading up to the forum. They worked closely with the affected communities to make sure that they would be active participants in the discussions.

Thus, when Jesus Dureza – the Presidential Assistant to Mindanao – arrived at the forum he was greeted by a group of about 1000 protesters who were standing outside the school. This group included elementary students, children and Subanon and Moro residents. The children carried white sacks with anti-mining logos and sang songs about environmental care. The adults carried placards which contained statements such as, "Stop TVI – Cancel its MPSA!" and "DENR, let the people of Siocon live in harmony with nature!" Subanon tribespeople displayed a banner which proclaimed, "We the people of Guinabucan, Butalian, Malubal, JS Perpecto and Kipit strongly oppose the TVI expansion in our area on its present operation". Moro residents waved posters with anti-mining slogans written in Arabic.

Once Dureza pushed his way into the school he found himself in a well attended forum. Many people had come from the local community and other affected areas. Other attendees included Effren Carreon, the Assistant Regional Director of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA); Darunday, a Provincial Board Member of Zamboanga del Norte; Mamao Macapodi, the Regional Director of the Mines Geosciences Bureau (MGB) and a representative of the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR), and the Mayors of the neighbouring communities of Sirawai, Sibuco, and Baligian. The representatives from various grassroot groups were also present. These included organizations of Muslims, Christians, Subanons, fisher folk, fishpond growers, irrigators, farmers, and more formal NGOs like the Save Siocon Paradise Movement (SSPM).

Cesar Soriano, Mayor of Siocon, opened the forum by announcing that, "This is the first forum where all stakeholders and government agencies' officials, national and provincial officials sat face-to-face with each other to peacefully tackle issues and fears." He declared that the meeting was a sign of hope for their children and a challenge to the leaders to assume environmental stewardship for the future.

Various observers took this declaration seriously and decided to challenge TVI and various Government Agencies on their poor environmental stewardship. Heated discussion arose when local religious, production, and political groups announced their "non-negotiable stand" on the operations of TVI on Mt. Canatuan. All of them were strongly opposed to the continuation of TVI's open pit mining activities in the area.

Mayor Soriano and Lunie Lucas, a Municipal Councillor and Head of Committee on the Environment, restated the opposition of the local government by reading the municipal resolution which prohibits all forms of mining because of its environmentally destructive nature. Mayor Soriano reminded the participants that the town has been declared as an "environmentally critical area" by the DENR because of its flood-prone nature. Soriano said, "If open-pit mining operations are continued, we fear that one rainy night... we will be carried by flash floods to the sea."

Soriano then posed questions to Emmuanuel Malari of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) about the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) that was done in order to allow TVI to operate. Malari said that an EIA was completed, but he was unable to answer more specific questions about it. Soriano reprimanded Malari for this and accused the department of not conducting their own research into this issue.

Dureza then asked the EMB and the MGB about the Multipartite Monitoring Team (MMT) that is supposed to conduct quarterly environmental assessments of TVI's operations. He stated that there should be "a continuous monitoring of the environmental impact on mining." He then asked if it was possible for multi-sectoral representatives to be in the monitoring team.

While the representative from MGB was assuring Dureza that this was possible, Godofredo Galos – the Chair of Save Siocon Foundation - stood up and gained Dureza's attention. He said, "We do not need that team. The people of Siocon are higher than that MMT. We are the people, we should be listened to. We want the cancellation of the MPSA of TVI and we want that company out of here". This comment raised a strong favourable response from the audience. Counsellor Lucas supported Galos' comments by saying, "We don't support the creation of the monitoring team because this company operated without the social acceptance of the people in Siocon."

The people of Siocon stood opposed to the strengthening of a monitoring team because they feared it was another grab for legitimacy from TVI. They rightly pointed out that there was hardly a need for a process like monitoring since the whole operation is illegal without their support. If the foundation is flawed, why inspect the window dressings? They fear that a multi-sector monitoring force may push them into a settlement with TVI where their autonomy is compromised.

Religious leaders also made a stand. Father Edgar Agura, a parish priest from Siocon announced, "I condemn any form of environmental destruction under my area of responsibility." Movin Abunawas, a Muslim leader, pointed out that 60-70% of the local Muslims are fisherfolks and another 5% work in the rice fields. He demanded that the Government advise TVI to leave the area now since their presence was having a negative affect on both of these industries.

The leaders of irrigators and fishpond operators, Victor Celeste and Rosendo Canlas respectively, testified further that the mining operations were having a hazardous effect on the livelihoods of those that they represent.

Timuay Fernando Mudai, a leader of Piksalabukan Bansa Subanon (PBS) stated opposition to the company on behalf of the Subanon people the he represents. He told the forum that his people did not want to be strangers in their own land. He explained that the company has been disregarding the legitimate land claim of his people and has instead recognized another group of Subanon from outside the area. He stated that "TVI has been using Subanon who are without Timuay lineage to justify Subanon support to the mining operation, which is contrary to our customary laws." To back up this claim, Mudai submitted a number of documents to the DENR secretary Mike Defensor. These included the resolution of traditional Subanon court about the illegal nature of Council of Elders in Canatuan, Siocon, a petition against the company's expansion plan of operation in Zamboanga Sibugay, and an open letter to President Gloria M. Arroyo about mining issues from a group of Subanon women.

The Secretary of the Siocon Subanon Association - Oncino Mato – requested that government officials show proper respect to the altar of his forefather Apu Manglang. Mato is one the holders of the Certificate of Ancestral Domain that was granted by the Government in 2003. Thus, he felt it was his right to call for the cancellation of TVI's MPSA without delay. He also stated that "this position is non-negotiable and there should be no compromise." John Ridsdel, the country representative of TVI, seemed ill equipped to deal with the strong opposition presented by the local community. Observers delighted in telling how he seemed to fall off of his chair while listening to the attacks on his company. Risdal defended his company by saying that it was invited by the Philippine Government as an engine of growth for the private sector. He also claimed that his company had brought social services into the community. He suggested that there was a need for dialogue where his company could give scientific answers about the mining operation. However, later he failed in providing those answers when challenged by an onslaught of questions from the opposition.

At the close of the forum, Counsellor Lucas asked Presidential Assistant Dureza to bring the voices of the people of Siocon to the highest levels of government. Dureza agreed in return to present these issues to the concerned government agencies. While looking at the officials from them EMB and the MGB he said, "I call on government agencies to look seriously on the compiled position papers of the sectors and of the Subanon tribe."

After the forum ended, protestors signed streamers painted with the words "Malooy ka Gloria, Ihunong ang TVI" (Have pity on us Gloria, stop TVI). They then brought these streamers to the post office in Siocon and mailed them off to the President and Mike Defensor, the secretary of DENR.

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