MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Un Representative For Indigenous Peoples To Hear Hr Cases

Published by MAC on 2007-02-02
Source: EED Partners-TFIP

UN Representative for Indigenous Peoples to hear HR cases

Press Release - EED Partners-TFIP

2nd February 2007

Quezon City - "Shoot me," Vivian Balingit said to the armed men, one of whom was aiming his gun at her. The man then pressed the tip of his rifle first on Vivian's stomach, then on the right shoulder, then on her right temple. Vivian pushed the gun with her hand, causing an abrasion on her left eye.

This was what Vivian had to experience for walking back home last Tuesday on the road of TVI Resource Development Philippines, part of Canatuan, Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte. TVI is a subsidiary of a Canadian mining company, and has been present in the area since 1995.

Vivian, who was walking home with her 3 children, her husband and sister, was blocked by the four armed men belonging to the SCAA (Special Civilian Armed Auxiliary). "They said the road is not ours but belongs to the TVI so we should pass through the forest." One of the men, whom she identified as Edgardo Acalindo, then pushed her husband down. A motorcycle arrived, and the armed men left them.

After being treated by a doctor, Vivian went to report the incident to the police, but the police refused to enter the complaint in the blotter. Vivian, 29 years old, is the daughter of Timuay Jose "Boy" Anoy, a Subanon leader who is the legitimate holder of an ancestral domain in Siocon. The mining operations of TVI are well within the ancestral domain of the Subanon community. Timuay Boy is known to be one of the strong voices against TVI.

"If the police will not properly record this latest act of violence of TVI, then I will take this report to the UN," Timuay Boy said, who flew to Manila to meet with the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples Rodolfo Stavenhagen. "We hope that somehow, Mr. Stavenhagen will be able to echo our voice of protest against the continuing presence of TVI, which pose continued threat to our basic human right to life."

Timuay Boy will be reporting today the Subanon situation, along with several other leaders of indigenous communities from the country, to Mr. Stavenhagen. Stavenhagen arrived yesterday for a 2-day national consultation with the indigenous leaders, as well as with the representatives of the government, multi-lateral bodies and non-government organizations.

This is a follow up visit from his official one in December 2002. In his 2003 report to the UN Commission on Human Rights, Stavenhagen stated that his report "documented serious human rights violations regarding the human rights implications for indigenous communities of economic activities, particularly the long-term devastating effects of mining operations on the livelihood of indigenous peoples and their environment."

Stavenhagen further said that the "militarization of indigenous communities is a grave human rights problem, as members of the indigenous communities are sometimes accused of rebellion or engaging in 'terrorist' activity."

Some of his 2003 recommendations included -

- That resolving land rights issues should at all times take priority over commercial development. There needs to be recognition not only in law but also in practice of traditional communities. The idea of prior right being granted to a mining or other business company rather than to a community that has held and cared for the land over generations must be stopped, as it brings the system of protection of human rights of indigenous peoples into disrepute.

- That the government of the Philippines carries out a prompt and effective investigation of the numerous human rights violations committed against indigenous peoples.

In the next two days, Stavenhagen will hear testimonies from the IPs, and invited government representatives who are directly responsible for the promotion and protection of the freedoms and human rights of the IPs - the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) among others. His main objectives are to see if there have been fundamental changes in the situation of the IPs since his first visit; and find out whether the government has taken his recommendations seriously. The result of this consultation will serve as an input to his report to the UN Human Rights Council in March.

Meanwhile, leaders of the IPs from the regions are taking this opportunity to once again tell their stories and call for an end to the human rights abuses of the indigenous peoples. "Who else do you turn to when it is the government itself has failed you?" Timuay Boy said. "We are relying on our community's will to defend our land, and on the support of those who believe in us, and believe in justice."

For more information on the case of Vivian Balingit and the visit of UN Special
Rapporteur on the Indigenous Peoples Rodolfo Stavenhagen, please contact -
Voltaire Tupaz (EED Partners-TFIP) - 09066603572
Raymond Rovillos (Tebtebba) - 09175072789
judy a. pasimio (LRC) - 09062568341

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