MAC: Mines and Communities

Groups Tell United Nations Committee That The Philippine Government Fails To Respect Ip's Rights

Published by MAC on 2007-08-21
Source: Task Force Canatuan ()

Groups tell United Nations committee that the Philippine Government fails to respect Indigenous Peoples' Rights

Task Force Canatuan Press Release

21st August 2007

The Government of the Philippines stands accused of failing to uphold its obligations to respect and protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines. A consortium of NGOs, led by three indigenous Subanon organisations, presented detailed information to the United Nations in Geneva. They catalogued the government's discriminatory policies and actions against them, and other Indigenous Peoples, in relation to its promotion of large-scale mining on their ancestral lands.

In their verbal and written submissions to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (UN CERD), the Subanon Timuay (traditional leaders), Jose Anoy and Fernando Mudai, charged that the Government of the Philippines was responsible for allowing serious and sustained abuses against the Subanon People. Illustrative of this was the fact that, despite the sustained opposition of the original Subanon inhabitants of the Mount Canatuan area, their sacred mountain has been desecrated by large-scale mining operations of a Canadian mining company, TVI Pacific.

Timuay Fernando Mudai explained, "We are not anti-government or anti-development as some people claim. We believe in a development path determined by the Subanon themselves, one that follows our core principles of being pro-life, pro-people, pro-environment and pro-God. We have seen what has happened at Canatuan and this mining project goes against all of these principles. To defend our future we have no choice but to oppose this abusive project and its planned expansion."

The Subanon highlighted that the irreparable damage to their ancestral domain was achieved with the support of abusive paramilitary forces, employed by TVI Pacific, and armed, trained and supervised by the Armed Forces of the Philippines. They described the failure to obtain their consent and the manipulation of the associated process by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) as indicative of the failure of the Government of the Philippines to respect and protect their rights. These rights, which are guaranteed under national and international law, include their rights to self-determination and control over their ancestral domains. The Subanon stated that the Government of Canada, through its support for TVI Pacific and other mining companies in the Philippines, shares in the responsibility for the violation of their rights.

The UN CERD met for its 71st session in Geneva from 30 July --17 August. The Committee is responsible for monitoring state party adherence to their obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). The Philippines, which ratified ICERD in 1967, has failed in its obligations to submit regular reports. It last filed a report in 1997. At that time, the committee expressed its concern regarding mining applications on indigenous lands, calling on the government to address these issues in its subsequent report.

The Subanon encouraged CERD and other organs of the UN to take steps to remind the Government of the Philippines of its obligations to:-

* respect the wishes and protect the interests of its Indigenous Peoples;
* respect Subanon and other Indigenous Peoples' religious freedoms, beliefs and their sacred sites;
* respect Subanon customary laws and uphold the rulings of indigenous authorities;
* halt current mining operations and expansion plans in and around Canatuan.

The full statement presented to CERD can be downloaded at:- http://www.piplinks.org/development_issues/Subanon_CERD.pdf

For more information contact:-

* Zherwinah Mosqueda, LRC-KSK -- email zherwinah@yahoo.com
* Timuay Fernando Mudai, PBS -- email pigsalabukan@yahoo.com
* Geoff Nettleton, PIPLinks - email info@piplinks.org

Notes for Editors

1 Task Force Canatuan is a loose umbrella organisation concerned about TVI Pacific's activities in Canatuan. Local, national and international groups associated with it include Apo Manglang Glupa' Pusaka (AMGP), Gukom of the Seven Rivers, Pigsalabukan Bangsa Subanon (PBS), Save Siocon Paradise Movement (SSPM), DIOPIM Committee on Mining Issues (DCMI), Friends of the Earth Philippines (LRC-KSK), Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), Philippine Misereor Partnerships (PMP), Tebtebba Foundation, MiningWatch Canada and Indigenous Peoples Links (PIPLinks)

2 The submitting organisations are Apo Manglang Glupa' Pusaka (AMGP), Gukom of the Seven Rivers, Pigsalabukan Bangsa Subanon (PBS), LRC-KSK, Tebtebba Foundation, Indigenous Peoples Links (PIPLinks) and Irish Centre for Human Rights. The three presenting organisations were AMGP, PBS and the Gukom of the Seven Rivers.

3 The rights invoked include those which are guaranteed under the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines and the 1997 Indigenous Peoples Rights Act

4 In 2004 the highest judicial authority of the Subanon of this region- the Gukom of the Seven Rivers, which is recognised by the Government's NCIP, ruled that, based on Subanon customary laws, the free prior informed consent of the legitimate Canatuan Subanon for mining had not been obtained, and that a bogus tribal authority had been established by the NCIP. It demanded that this bogus authority be disbanded and that all agreements entered into by it declared null and void. Despite this, the bogus group continues to be recognized by the Government of the Philippines and the Canadian company.

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