MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Indigenous Tribesmen [and Women!] Threaten To Campaign V. Team Unity

Published by MAC on 2007-03-24
Source: Sun Star General Santos City

Indigenous tribesmen [and women!] threaten to campaign v. Team Unity

By Ulysses Israel, Sun Star General Santos City

24th March 2007

SOME 3,000 indigenous folks in Zamboanga del Norte threatened to campaign against the candidates of Team Unity for the Senate and local positions if the government will continue to ignore their petition to stop the mining operations of a Canadian mining firm.

They also threatened to bring their grievances to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) if the government continues to play deaf to their complaints.

Last March 22, leaders and community members of Subanons in Mount Canatuan, Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte, filed with the Mines and Bureau Geo-Sciences-Western Mindanao a "manifestation with urgent motion for speedy resolution" of earlier petition they filed on April 20, 2006.

The petition was for the cancellation of the Mineral Production Sharing Agreement No. 054-96-IX of the TVI Resource, which they claimed would help "to attain meaningful life in their ancestral domain."

The Subanons are claimants of more or less 8,213 hectares of ancestral domain, including Mount Canatuan, considered as sacred by the indigenous people. They are protesting against the large-scale, open pit mining operations of TVI Resources Development Philippines, Inc. on their ancestral land.

The group said TVI Resource's mining operations would "annihilate their ancestral land, bulldozed their sacred ground, their farmlands are converted into mining ponds and mineral processing areas. Their potable water is use for washing the ores to produce the gold. Tons of toxic wastes are poured daily to the rivers where Subanons get water for domestic use."

The Special Cafgu Armed Auxiliary (SCAA), which manned the checkpoints are always on guard monitoring the ingress and egress of the Subanons, they said in their petition.

Lawyer Jarley Sulay-Trigillo, regional lawyer of Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center, said the regional office of mines bureau told them that their petition could not be acted upon because the Panel of Arbitrators that was tasked to look into their complaints is lacking in number of members.

The panel should have three members -- two lawyers and one mining engineer -- but right now it is only composed of one lawyer and one engineer, the mines bureau office told them.

However, when Jessica N. Lucero, officer-in-charge (OIC) of the regional office of Mines bureau for Western Mindanao was asked, she said there was misunderstanding. She said it is not true that the panel of arbitrators could not act on their petition because it is lacking in membership.

She said the complaints of the Subanons have been addressed. In fact, a monitoring team composed of nine members is doing a regular monitoring of compliance by TVI Resources on a quarterly basis.

"The monitoring team conducts visits and monitoring of the mining operations of TVI every three months to see to it that compliance is strictly followed by the mining firm," she said.

"Their (Subanons) complaints are recurring, but we can say that TVI is complying with the requirements of responsible mining," she added.

The government has been demanding for responsible mining from the mining operators, said Lucero.

Responsible mining has three components: economic growth, social equity and environmental protection, according to the regional mines bureau chief.

"TVI has been operating since 1995, it would not last long if it does not abide by the law," she said.

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