MAC: Mines and Communities

Philippine Government To Address Accusations Of Rights Violations

Published by MAC on 2007-09-15

Philippine Government to Address Accusations of Rights Violations

Task Force Canatuan Press Release

6th September 2007 [1]

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (UN CERD) [2] has imposed deadlines on the Government of the Philippines to respond to accusations of failure to uphold and protect the rights of the Subanon and other Indigenous Peoples caused by Government biased support for mining developments. The UN particularly focussed upon issues arising from TVI Pacific's gold mining operations on Mount Canatuan but also highlighted indigenous concern regarding serious shortcomings in the implementation of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (1997).

In the strongly worded letter to the Government of the Philippines, the UN CERD noted with concern the allegations 'according to which members of the Subanon community are exposed to acts of violence and attacks on their property, sacred sites and institutions, and regarding the existence of a pattern of escalating racial hatred and violence against the Subanon community'. The UN CERD expressed particular concern about 'information that paramilitary forces deployed by TVI Pacific are accused of human rights violations and that mining activities on Mount Canatuan continue and are being expanded.' It called on the Government to provide information on the measures taken to protect the members of the Subanon community and to address their complaints.

The granting of the mining concession to TVI Pacific 'without the prior consent of the Subanon community, or its duly authorized representatives, in violation of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA)' was another area of particular concern for the UN. It requested information as to how a body alleged to have 'no status in indigenous structure and not deemed representative by the Subanon' was 'granted representative status for the Subanon community' thereby enabling it to conclude 'an agreement with a Canadian mining company (TVI Pacific) in order to authorize mining activities on Mount Canatuan, a sacred site of the Subanon'.

The UN CERD also expressed its concern regarding the implementation of the IPRA, requesting that the Government provide a detailed response to 'the information according to which amendments ...to the 1998 Implementing Rules and Regulations impose restrictions in relation to the time-frame and process required to obtain the free and prior informed consent ...of indigenous communities which are not in conformity with the customs, laws and traditional practices of these communities'.

The UN CERD letter to the Government of the Philippines follows a detailed submission presented by a consortium of NGOs led by three indigenous Subanon organisations,[3] which catalogued the government's discriminatory policies and actions against the Subanon, and other Indigenous Peoples, in relation to its promotion of large-scale mining on ancestral lands. Timuay (traditional leader) Fernando Mudai and Timuay Jose Anoy explained to the committee that "Mt. Canatuan is sacred to us...but the Canadian mining company made it a dumpsite for its toxic wastes. What is our sin against the Canadians? We did not go to Canada and desecrate their place, but the Canadians came here and destroyed our sacred mountain." They added that "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."

A deadline of 'no later than 31 December 2007' was set by the UN CERD for the Government to provide its response to the issues raised. In the absence of a response by this deadline the UN CERD will consider adopting a decision under its early warning and urgent action procedure. The Philippines has also been requested to submit it's long overdue full country report before 30 June 2008.[4]

The full text of the letter issued by the UN CERD to the Government of the Philippines is available at :

www.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/docs/philippines_letter.pdf. The submission presented to UN CERD can be downloaded at:

http://www.piplinks.org/development_issues/Subanon_CERD.pdf

For more information or documentation contact:-

Zherwinah Mosqueda, LRC-KSK -- phone +63 88 856 5045 or email zherwinah@yahoo.com

Timuay Fernando Mudai, PBS -- phone +63 62 353 1480 or email pigsalabukan@yahoo.com

Geoff Nettleton, PIPLinks - phone +44 207 326 0363 or +44 1367 718889 or 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 UN CERD met for its 71st session in Geneva from 30 July --17 August. The Committee is responsible for monitoring the adherence of States 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.

[3] 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.

[4] The Committee cautioned that in the absence of a Government report they would produce concluding remarks to their 73rd session (July-August 2008) based on other sources including NGO submissions. The submission by the Subanon and NGOs already made it clear that the problems surrounding mining expansion affected many different indigenous communities across the country.
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