MAC: Mines and Communities

Zambo Norte Subanens Sue Canadian Mining Firm

Published by MAC on 2006-04-12
Source: Sun Star Zamboanga

Zambo Norte Subanens sue Canadian mining firm

By Cheng Ordonez, Sun Star Zamboanga -

12th April 2006

ZAMBOANGA CITY -- Enraged with alleged continuing harassments, threats to lives and destruction of properties, a group of Subanens filed a suit against Toronto Ventures Incorporated (TVI), a Canadian-owned mining firm operating in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte.

Gigi B. Bedro, of the Legal Rights & Natural Resource Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan/Friends of the Earth-Philippines, said Timuay Lino L. Tii led the Subanen petitioners in filing a case Thursday for the immediate cancellation of TVI's mineral production sharing agreement.

The suit was filed before the panel of arbitrators of the Mines & Geo-Sciences Bureau in Zamboanga City, according to Bedro.

Tii's group claimed that TVI violated several national laws, several provisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, and this is sufficient ground for government to revoke the corporation's mining permit.

The complainant Subanens also claimed that, at least, three national laws were violated by TVI's mining operations in the area. These include the Philippine Mining Act, Indigenous People's Rights Act, and Local Government Code of the Philippines of 1991, said Bedro.

"The decision to file a case was made after the government failed to address their interest of protecting their land from development aggression caused by TVI's mining operations," Bedro said.

Tii said they sought the help of local government units, environment department, Office of the President, and National Commission on Indigenous Peoples over their predicament but without result.

He added that they are asking that TVI be not allowed to operate in the area because it is part of their sacred mountain that was occupied by their ancestors since time immemorial.

The Subanens in Siocon were awarded a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on June 12, 2003.

"This makes them the second indigenous peoples' community in the country whose rights are fully recognized," according to Bedro.

But tribal chieftain Timuay Jose "Boy" Anoy said the certificate was not enough to protect them from the "destructive mining operations of TVI," added Bedro.

Others groups backing the Subanens are stakeholders in the area like Moro and Visayan farmers, fishers, women, church workers, and the youth.

TVI, according to Tii's group of Subanens, has also continuously spread terror among residents in the area with the heavy presence of the military and paramilitary forces.

The Subanens hope that their grief allegedly caused by "TVI's unending destruction of their sacred mountains" would finally come to an end. "TVI's mining operation has to be stopped. TVI and other large-scale mining firms have no place in the Philippines especially in ancestral domains of indigenous peoples," said Anoy.

Reacting to the suit, TVI expressed disappointment that Apu Manglang Pusaka and Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center again resorted to forum hunting in their denigration campaign against the mining firm.

"The issues they raised are a mere rehash of their unfounded allegations that have been ventilated in various fora, including Congress. We categorically deny their accusations," it said.

The firm said TVI's mineral agreement with the national government was issued ahead of the certificate given to Subanon in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte.

But even if the company enjoyed prior rights over the ancestral domain claim and title, TVI entered into an agreement with the Siocon Subano Association Inc. for the development of Canatuan "as a gesture of good faith and affirmative action."

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