MAC: Mines and Communities

Letter To Inquirer - Responding To Tvi’s ‘side’ On Canatuan Mining Row

Published by MAC on 2007-07-18
Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer ()

Letter to Inquirer - Responding to TVI’s ‘side’ on Canatuan mining row

18th July 2007

Dear Sir/Madam,

We note the letter of TVI’s Director of Public Affairs, Rocky Dimaculangan (TVI explains side on Canatuan mining row, Inquirer, 7/5/07), in response to Daxim Lucas’s article on the supposed revitalisation of the mining industry (“Mining is poised for takeoff, but old woes persist,” Inquirer, 6/11/07).

As noted by Mr. Dimaculangan, the original article was not only objective, but also correct in the portrait it painted. Therefore in response to the allegations he laid out we would like to offer the following rebuttals to his letter.

1. Mr. Dimaculangan claims that Timuay (tribal chief) Jose Anoy has been repudiated by his own community and was voted out of leadership of the Siocon Subanon Association Inc. (SSAI), which is recognized by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples as the legal representative of the Canatuan Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) holders.

In reality the SSAI has no standing or authority in relation to the Ancestral Domain claim and title other than that improperly given to it by TVI. The official claimants to the CADT are not defined by membership of SSAI, nor are they required to be. SSAI has no standing or authority in Subanon culture, and therefore has no legitimate role. The Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) law requires that the recognised decision-makers within a CADT are leaders chosen according to traditional custom and practice. Timuay Anoy is indeed the recognised leader according to such a definition, and has been confirmed as such by the Subanon’s regional traditional judicial body, the Gukom. TVI itself has recently acknowledged the authority and standing of the Gukom, when it proposed to submit to ‘tribal justice’ after a recent incident where TVI security guards are alleged to have assaulted the daughter of Timuay Anoy within the ancestral domain.

The claim that Timuay Anoy is not a legitimate leader is based on divisions to which TVI has regrettably contributed. SSAI was formed in the early 1990s as a SEC registered vehicle to assist the people of Canatuan in securing their land rights. It was founded and led by Timuay Anoy. However in 2001 an improperly constituted meeting, which was initiated by Subanon supportive of the company - including employees of TVI and some who had no legitimate land rights on Mt Canatuan – led to a group usurping power within SSAI. The history of this shabby act has been well documented and continues to be disputed. TVI unwisely chose to recognise and support the usurpers, thereby intensifying community division and conflict. Yet despite company backing SSAI has failed to gain general credibility, and divisions have intensified. Such internal conflict is frequently produced by mining companies entering a community.

2. Mr. Dimaculangan claims that Mount Canatuan is not sacred, and that elements are using the mountain’s “sacredness” as a rallying cry in international discourse.

Such a position is deeply offensive. If TVI wish to learn respect for the people whose land they occupy they had best start by not seeking to “educate” the Subanon as to their own beliefs and sacred sites. What basis does a Canadian company have to argue it knows better than the Subanon themselves whether an area is sacred or not? Respected regional Subanon organisations, such as the Gukom and Pigsalabukan Bangsa Subanon, confirm the sacredness of the mountain in documenting local custom and practice. Indeed, interviews have attested that the small-scale miners and Zamboanga Wood, who previously logged in the area, both recognised that the mountain was sacred in their dealings with the traditional leadership. It is only TVI, who have now removed the whole mountain-top, who have sought to deny it.

3. Mr. Dimaculangan claims that TVI has IP consent in Canatuan (notably a memorandum of agreement with the SSAI).

This “agreement” is the basis of regular payments to the officers and lawyer of SSAI and the members of a Council of Elders, which was invented in 2002. It is perhaps unsurprising therefore that they have endorsed the company. The continuing dispute is whether the individuals who choose to collaborate with TVI have any legitimate authority. It is this that is strongly disputed and rejected both by the original Subanon inhabitants of the region and by their neighbouring communities who know that the structures established to legitimize TVI’s occupation, themselves lack legitimacy.

4. Mr. Dimaculangan claims that “Anoy is not a Timuay”.

Aside from the points already made in support of Timuay Jose Anoy, it is noteworthy that the provincial NCIP office has recently validated Timuay Anoy as a leader. It agrees that he is the correct person to head the body to engage in the FPIC process that TVI now requires for the expansion of their activities within the CADT. As part of this process, TVI staff attended a locally organised meeting in front of the community as recently as 17th June 2007. This would seem to suggest that TVI is now recognising Timuay Anoy, so perhaps Mr. Dimaculangan is out of step with his colleagues in continuing with this disrespect, or would he care to offer a clarification?

Unsurprisingly the request for new FPIC was rejected. In fact, according to reports of the meeting, a qualified apology of sorts for some of the grave violations of rights was given by TVI’s new Vice President for Social Commitments. While this was welcomed it seems many of those present felt it went in no way far enough. Perhaps more importantly during that open meeting one of TVI’s supporters, who was appointed by NCIP as a member of the so-called Council of Elders, admitted she had no standing as a traditional leader and paid a penalty for falsely claiming to be so.

In conclusion as Mr Dimaculangan notes in his letter, TVI has indeed continued to make these sort of points over the last several years. Indeed it has been these assertions that have been the basis of their being allowed to proceed to mine gold on Mount Canatuan and have resulted in millions of dollars of profits for their company, but also resulted in the militarization of the area, as well as violence and the forced removal of local residents. Fortunately repetition of such self serving claims by hired spokespersons does not make these claims any more true or credible.

Mr. Geoff Nettleton sgd. (Coordinator, Philippine Indigenous Peoples Links)
Mr. Jaybee Garganera sgd. (National Coordinator, PhilDHRRA/ATM)
Ms. Jo Villanueva sgd. (Executive Director, LRC – KsK/FOE – Philippines)
Ms Anabelle Plantilla sgd. (Executive Director, Haribon Foundation)

For details, please contact:

Jaybee Garganera (0915-3153719), nc@phildhrra.org
Roy Calfoforo (0920-2970492), roycalf@gmail.com
John Vincent S. Cruz (0928-5028701, vince0925@yahoo.com

Tel # 02-4260385 or 02-4266740

Address: # 59 C. Salvador St., Loyola Heights, Quezon City (www.alyansatigilmina.org)

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